14 March 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 599
West Cheshire will decide this month whether to become the latest region to suspend NHS-funded IVF treatment. The West Cheshire Health Consortium, which is made up of 38 GP practices, claims it needs to cut IVF to deliver healthcare to its aging population.
The Consortium claims it is faced with increasing financial responsibilities because it is becoming responsible for the local PCT's health budget under Government plans to abolish. By 2013, the Consortium will be fully responsible for funding local NHS services. The Consortium claim IVF is at the forefront of its proposed cutbacks because it is a 'high cost treatment which benefits only a small number of people''.
'Over the past year, local GPs have been working together to determine whether all procedures currently funded are in line with best practice guidance and offer the best possible value for money and use of NHS services', said Alison Lee, Executive Director of the Consortium. 'How much should the NHS be funding or is that something a patient should say 'that's really important to me, I will go privately and have that done''.
Patients who have already started IVF will be given one funded cycle of treatment. Otherwise, IVF will only be funded in 'exceptional' cases. Investigations into fertility problems and fertility-enhancing drugs will not be affected under the plans. The Consortium plans to review its decision in 12 months.
The Consortium asked people to give their views on the proposals by completing a survey online or at GP practices. The survey results were discussed in a meeting held at Ellesmere Port Civic Hall on 8 March.
A news story on the website of Infertility Network UK (INUK), a charity supporting people with infertility, criticised the 'Making Challenging Choices about Healthcare' survey. The INUK website said the public consultation was: 'misleading and full of inaccurate information. It appears to be targeted at patients who are not experiencing infertility, and is full of loaded questions to support the case for suspending funding, in a way likely to steer patients away from making a fair, and unbiased, decision'.