I was surprised to read in your cover feature 'The cost of living' (pages 22-25, 23 July) that Shetland health board operates an eligibility criterion for assisted conception which states 'no living children fathered by current partner'.

This is not the case.

The board has only approved two criteria. These are that the service should be restricted to women who are 37 years old or under at the date of the first proposed treatment cycle; and that the number of treatment cycles made available to any woman be restricted to a total of three.

Shetland health board adopted these criteria in March 1996 because of evidence that the success rate for treatment declines rapidly after the age of 37 and because of evidence of significant psychological morbidity associated with treatment where a large number of repeated cycles is undertaken.

Brian Atherton

General manager

Shetland health board