The UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has released new commissioning guidance offering NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) advice on delivering high-quality cost-effective fertility services.
Many CCGs have cut funding for IVF in recent years, and patient access to fertility services is inconsistent across the UK. The new guidance aims to standardise how much CCGs should spend per IVF cycle, to offer the best value to patients and to support provision of treatment in accordance with the recommendations of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): three full IVF cycles to women under 40 and one full cycle to women aged 40-42 without children.
'We know how important adequate funding is to allow patients, with a recognised medical condition of infertility, to try to have their much longed-for families. This is why we have been working with the main professional groups to provide this commissioning guidance for CCGs and with NHS England to benchmark costs, so that the very small amount of public funding spent on fertility treatment is optimised and patients get a fair deal,' said HFEA Chair Sally Cheshire.
The HFEA worked with the British Fertility Society, Association of Clinical Embryologists, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Nursing to produce the guidance, which explains the positive impacts of commissioning fertility services, including the lower rates of reproductive tourism and reduced multiple pregnancies. The guidance outlines the increased risks associated with multiple pregnancies and explains that clinics should ensure multiple birth rates not exceed 10 percent, in order to provide safe and cost-effective treatment.
The guidance explains that CCGs can ensure substantial and cost-effective fertility treatment through emotional support, investigations, and implementation of evidence-based treatments. The guidance refers to NICE's clinical pathway flowchart to support CCGs in order to offer low-cost and quality services to their local population of patients.
Sarah Norcross, Director the Progress Educational Trust (the charity which publishes BioNews), welcomed the publication: 'It is long overdue and much needed. Given the substantial disinvestment in NHS fertility services in recent years in England, PET hopes this guidance will help CCGs both reduce the costs of commissioning fertility treatment and improve the service they provide. NHS England's recent issuing of benchmark prices for IVF, which are intended to enable CCGs to procure fertility services at more competitive prices, are another positive step forwards.'