Homerton Hospital. Photograph: courtesy the Homerton

Women awaiting fertility treatment at Homerton Hospital have spoken about their devastation at being told they face long waits for treatment.

One woman, who was due to start her first IVF cycle in February only to be told it would not go ahead, said: “It affects you quite significantly because you do not know how long you’ll have to wait for treatment.

“My life is on hold now.”

The 37-year-old from Enfield, who had her first appointment at the Homerton last May, said she is now considering trying to find money for private treatment after hospital staff told her she could looking at six to nine-month delay.

“It’s a rollercoaster,” she said. “If it does not go ahead for another nine months, I will have been waiting for one year and nine months.

“It’s common knowledge that after 35 your fertility reduces significantly. So a year means it reduces your chances of being successful or not being successful.”

She added: “The biggest thing for me is when you go through medical treatment you expect the treatment to be the hard bit. This is getting to the starting line.”

The Homerton said it is facing “some extraordinary and unforeseen operational challenges”, including staff shortages at the fertility service.

These have led to delays and complaints from patients who were already affected by the pandemic, which meant some treatments had already been put on hold.

The problem came when clinical scientists left the fertility unit within a short period.

The hospital said: “We have been unable to replace them yet, leaving us with a shortage of staff to perform vital embryology procedures in the Unit. Recruitment of new clinical scientists is being carried out as a matter of urgency.”

The hospital hopes to resume a normal service within the next six months.

It has “secured capacity at two other London NHS fertility centres for Homerton patients to continue their treatment in a timely manner”.

The clinicians’ patient clinics, diagnostic work, ovulation induction, frozen embryo transfer and IUI (interuterine insemination) will continue as normal at the Unit.

Dr Garima Srivastava said the team is working to overcome the problems: “We know this will be upsetting news to many of our patients, and we have apologised for any distress caused.

“We hope to be able to offer a more comprehensive update to patients, clinical staff, and our other stakeholders soon.”

One mother who had just had her treatment confirmed before it was then cancelled, told Mumsnet: “It was like having the rug pulled out from underneath me.”

Fertility coach Yulia Osoyanu said one would-be mother she works with “phoned me up in tears”.

She added: “How many women are waiting months and months? How bad is it for lots of women in their late 30s and early 40s?”

She said she did not understand why there was a problem.

Meanwhile the Homerton is trying to make sure its patients can get treatment faster, including finding them places at other NHS centres.

The hospital is offering counselling to affected patients and asking GPs to refer people too.