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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

A third of GPs told about IVF restrictions – survey

28 February 2011

By Ayesha Ahmad

Appeared in BioNews 597

A survey by Pulse, a weekly magazine aimed at General Practitioners (GPs), has revealed that 31 percent (%) of GPs report that their patients are facing restrictions in IVF treatment following the latest cost-saving measures. According to the survey, family doctors reported that 1 in 8 patients referred by them had been denied IVF treatment.

One reason put forward for these latest problems with access is that there is a deliberate strategy to manage demand. Dr Anil Chopra, a GP and medical director for NHS South West Essex who supports the restrictions, told Pulse that 'The service restriction policy is part of a plan agreed with local doctors to bring referrals down to a more manageable level'. In Dr Chopra's catchment area, 12% of GPs had their referrals blocked. This included both outright rejection (4 %) and the diverting of referrals to other health professionals or health care providers (8%).

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, it was found that 80% of 32 primary care organisations have referral management centres. A third of the 380 GPs who participated in the survey had their referrals screened by a referral management centre.

The tightening of treatment allocation and referrals is affecting services across the NHS, including hip and knee replacements, allergy and cataract services, as well as IVF treatment. NHS North Yorkshire and York is proposing to stop providing hip and knee replacement operations for patients who smoke and who have a body mass index (BMI) of over 35 on the basis that 'by managing a patient's weight and stopping them smoking we can reduce the surgical risk and improve outcomes'.

There are concerns however, with Mr John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, pointing out that 'Surgeons always make a judgement with the patient about whether the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks and that will differ from case to case'.

Furthermore, there are fears of a 'postcode lottery' effect with some patients being able to access services in one part of the country while others cannot.



NHS hospital appointments 'blocked'
Press Association | 23 February 2011
Guardian | 24 February 2011
Pulse magazine
Pulse | 24 February 2011


03 September 2012 - by Cathy Holding 
Around one in three women who are entitled to receive IVF are being denied this right, according to a survey carried out by the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC)... [Read More]
03 September 2012 - by Clare Lewis-Jones MBE 
Last summer the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) launched its most comprehensive patient survey to date. The aim of the survey was to identify problems faced by people seeking NHS-funded fertility treatment... [Read More]
12 March 2012 - by Cathy Holding 
IVF is only miraculous and life-changing if it works, but in some areas of the country you're less likely to be able to try on the NHS. BBC One's 'Postcode Lottery' follows a couple who could attempt treatment if they lived elsewhere... [Read More]
28 November 2011 - by Nicola Drury 
An increasing number of NHS clinics that provide assisted reproduction technologies (ART) are denying treatment to women who smoke or have a partner who smokes. But is it appropriate for any lifestyle factors to be used to deny state-funded treatment? And where should the line be drawn between medical 'advice' and 'restrictions'?... [Read More]
10 October 2011 - by Marianne Neary 
Being just slightly overweight can affect the chance of having a baby through IVF, according to a study at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.... [Read More]

14 February 2011 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
Public health minister Anne Milton has said NHS Primary Care Trust's should follow existing guidelines and offer three cycles of IVF to eligible couples.... [Read More]
17 January 2011 - by Chris Chatterton 
Over the last few months BioNews has covered the developing story that a number of PCTs across England have suspended their fertility services, citing financial constraints as a prominent factor.... [Read More]
06 September 2010 - by Sarah Guy 
Data made available under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that in some areas of the UK, primary care trusts (PCTs) have placed a blanket ban on requests for IVF treatment because of depleted resources... [Read More]

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