28 November 2016
ByAppeared in BioNews 879
Patients who have already been referred for IVF will receive one cycle of treatment, instead of the three that are currently offered.
The CCG decided to stop offering fertility treatment as part of a wider package of cuts to save £14 million. A public consultation on the proposal revealed that 42 percent of respondents were in favour of continued funding for NHS patients.
Elsewhere, Bedfordshire CCG has announced that it will continue to provide one cycle of IVF treatment to eligible patients after conducting a public consultation that attracted more than 1000 responses.
Dr Alvin Low, clinical chair of Bedfordshire CCG and clinical lead for the consultation, said: 'At Bedfordshire CCG we always put the voice of clinicians and patients at the heart of what we do.'
Sarah Norcross, co-chair of campaign group Fertility Fairness and director of the Progress Educational Trust, which publishes BioNews, praised Bedfordshire CCG's decision and approach. 'It is heartening to hear that health bosses in Bedfordshire have listened to the views of patients and the public and have committed to continuing to fund NHS fertility services,' she said.
Conversely, Susan Seenan, also of Fertility Fairness, described Basildon and Brentwood CCG's decision as 'cruel and unethical'. She said that infertility can be a 'devastating, shattering experience' for many.
'Essex is now officially the worse place to live in England if you hope to access NHS fertility services – in the last two years three local groups have decommissioned NHS fertility services,' said Seenan.
Norcross warned there may also be risks from not funding fertility treatment. 'We are reassured to see that Bedfordshire [CCG] has recognised the benefits of providing a fertility service and has sensibly chosen to avoid the potential health risks and economic consequences of decommissioning NHS IVF,' she said.
Bedfordshire CCG's consultation paper outlines the risk of double or multiple embryo transfers from self-funded fertility treatment, warning that 'there is strong evidence to say that double-embryo transfer would result in more multiple births and greater health complications for mother and twins/multiples, with associated healthcare costs'.
Norcross also emphasised that Basildon and Brentwood CCG's decision will effectively deny access to fertility treatment for many people in the area. 'It is appalling that only the well off in Basildon and Brentwood will be able to access fertility treatment,' she said.
'Fertility services should be available for everyone eligible for treatment; not just the wealthy. Fertility problems affect rich and poor alike and this is a clear example of health inequality in practice.'
She added: 'The Prime Minister has said that she wants a country that works for everyone – here we have a county, Essex, which is working against people with a medical condition.'
Speaking in July, John Leslie of Basildon and Brentwood CCG said on the proposals to cut services: 'We have a legal duty to live within our means.'