'Health bodies shouldn't cut IVF funding', says public health minister
Progress Educational Trust14 February 2011
Public health minister Anne Milton has said NHS Primary Care Trust'sshould follow existing guidelines and offer three cycles of IVF to eligible couples.
Speaking at the first meeting of the newly constituted All-Parliamentary Group on Infertility in the Houses of Parliament last week, Ms Milton said: 'Despite the costs it is possible and we want to see as many areas as possible gear themselves up to those three cycles, and those that currently don't achieve that should be working towards doing it'.
Ms Milton said that her views were shared by the Department of Health. 'Both the Secretary of State and myself want to see PCTs, as they are, working towards the implementation of that guideline', she said. Existing NICE guidelines recommend that NHS trusts should provide up to three full cycles of IVF for eligible patients aged between 23 and 39.
Ms Milton argued that without IVF treatment, infertility can cause couples to become depressed and can affect relationships. She said: 'It's not just about people not being able to have a baby, it affects siblings, family, friends. The effect is always a ripple effect'. Funding for IVF has been affected by the economic crisis. So far, around ten PCT's have reduced funding for infertility services and some have tightened the eligibility criteria in an effort to cut costs. Some PCT's have stopped offering IVF to women who are over 35 or couples who already have children.
It is not yet clear who will be responsible for commissioning IVF under the impending health service reform, said Ms Milton, but she expects that it may fall to family doctors to decide who receives treatment. Campaigners fear that if the decision is made at a local level, IVF may fall victim to both the 'postcode lottery' and could be treated as a non-essential procedure.
The All-Parliamentary Group on Infertility was reconstituted by Conservative MP Gareth Johnson. Mr Johnson and his wife have had two children through IVF treatment.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.