Funding of IVF treatment has been suspended by Warrington PCT following a review to assess whether the service matched agreed health priorities and offered the best value for money. Warrington is the only PCT in the North West, of which there are 24, to cut the funding of IVF, reports say.
In 2009 - 2010, NHS Warrington carried out 88 IVF cycles on 60 couples. It costs £4,320 for each IVF cycle of treatment. In 2008 - 2009, 96 cycles were performed. It is anticipated that the funding cut will make a saving of around £380,160 per year.
Patients who have already had one cycle will proceed to two and women already listed to start treatment will receive just one cycle. Women will continue to receive other treatments for infertility, such as hormonal treatment and help with ovulatory cycles.
The PCT will consider only 'exceptional treatment approval' applications from GPs for IVF treatment where there is a clinical need.
Dr Andrew Davies, chairman of NHS Warrington's clinical leadership team, said: 'While the panel recognised that infertility is a condition which causes great distress to the couples concerned, it does not affect general physical health or life expectancy and as such did not fulfil our health priorities'.
'This decision was not taken lightly. However, the PCT must focus on the health of the people of Warrington and on the need to maintain financial stability by providing high quality local healthcare', Dr Davies added.
The funding cut has angered Clare Lewis-Jones MBE, chairman of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) and chief executive of charity The Infertility Network UK. She said: 'We are very angry indeed at the decision taken by Warrington PCT to suspend funding for IVF treatment. The PCT has suggested that infertility does not affect general physical health but we deal with patients every day who contact us and whose health has been adversely affected by this illness'.
'NICE Guidance issued in 2004 recommended eligible couples should receive up to three full cycles of treatment'.
'It is high time that PCTs realised the impact infertility has on patients. In particular those patients who are currently in the process of being referred will be devastated to learn that they will not now be eligible for treatment, and yet if they lived elsewhere, their PCT would fund their treatment'.
'This is completely unfair and we would urge Warrington PCT to reconsider this decision. They have already stated that IVF is only provided to a limited number of couples - the cost benefits to the PCT of scrapping this funding are well outweighed by the distress this will cause those patients'.
The panel will meet again in to July 2011 reconsider the decision.