20 March 2017
ByAppeared in BioNews 893
The decision was made by the CCG as part of efforts to plug the its £36 million financial deficit, estimating that stopping funding one cycle of IVF for infertile couples will save up to £860,000 per year.
There was strong opposition from the public – 77 percent of people who responded to a public consultation earlier this year preferring the option to make 'no change' to the existing service.
'This is a very emotional subject – and that is shown in the majority objection we have had to this proposal through the consultation,' said Dr Agnelo Fernandes, a Croydon GP and the assistant clinical chair of the CCG. He remarked that the decision was one of the hardest of his professional career.
'However, it is our role to look at the entirety of health needs across the borough and we have a statutory duty to prioritise the limited resources we have available to us,' added Dr Fernandes.
While the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that women under 40 are offered up to three free cycles of NHS-funded IVF, it is up to individual CCGs to decide how NHS funding is spent in their region.
Until 14 March 2017, women under 39 in Croydon who met certain clinical criteria had been eligible for one free cycle of IVF. Now, the CCG will only consider applications for funded treatment from a GP or consultant whose patient meets 'exceptional circumstances'. In other areas of the country, these circumstances include women who are being treated for cancer and whose treatment or condition is likely to render them infertile.
Susan Seenan, chief executive of the patient fertility charity Fertility Network UK and co-chair of Fertility Fairness, told the Croydon Guardian: 'Facing fertility problems is hard enough without being denied medical help because of where you live.'
The public consultation revealed concerns that the decision would lead to a so-called 'postcode lottery', with couples in neighbouring boroughs still able to receive IVF on the NHS.
Croydon CCG has also acknowledged the possibility of an increased demand on mental health services from individuals and couples who are unable to conceive as a result of the decision.
There are four other boroughs in the country that do not routinely fund IVF: South Norfolk, Mid Essex, North East Essex, and Basildon and Brentwood.