NHS cutbacks worsen IVF 'postcode lottery' in England
Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd
Progress Educational Trust15 August 2017
Funding cuts by the UK's NHS has meant that 13 areas in England have restricted or halted IVF treatment since the start of 2017, according to Fertility Network UK.
A further eight areas are consulting on taking similar measures, and the situation is worsening says the charity which monitors IVF provision. These cuts amount to a 'postcode lottery' said regional co-ordinator Anya Sizer to Sky News.
NICE recommends that three full cycles of IVF are offered to women under 40 who have not become pregnant after trying to conceive for two years. Currently, only 27 of England's 207 CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) meet this guidance.
In effect, patients in some parts of England may be able to get three fully funded cycles of IVF, while those in a neighbouring CCG, may get no NHS treatment. 'There you have a distance of a few miles up the road and you have a completely different funding experience,' said Ms Sizer.
Earlier this year Croydon became the first CCG to stop funding IVF to help save £836,000 annually. Three other CCGs have since stopped offering IVF cycles on the NHS.
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCGs are currently holding a consultation on restricting fertility treatment to women aged 30-35 and would be the first in the UK to apply such limitations.
An NHS England spokesperson said of the cutbacks to IVF: 'Ultimately these are decisions for Clinical Commissioning Groups, who are under an obligation to balance the various competing demands on the NHS locally while living within the budget parliament has allocated.'
But many have spoken out against the cuts. A spokesperson from the UK Department of Health said: 'Fertility problems can have a serious and lasting impact on families and the NHS should provide access to services, including IVF, for all patients that meet the criteria set out by independent experts at NICE.'
Leceia Gordon-Mackenzie, deputy chief executive of Fertility Network UK, told the BBC: 'England pioneered IVF approaching 40 years ago, but that achievement is meaningless if only those who can afford to pay for IVF benefit from it.'
Fertility expert Professor Simon Fishel told the UK's Guardian newspaper: 'What is the point of having NICE guidelines if they are not adhered to?'
He added: 'If the country decides it will not fund IVF then fine, that is a decision that affects everyone ... but what I cannot abide is the local variation for something like this, which doesn’t reflect local populations.'
The situation is different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as they all offer the same number of cycles across the country (three, two and one, respectively).
SOURCES & REFERENCES
|Sky News | 07 August 2017
|The Guardian | 06 August 2017
|BBC | 06 August 2017
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