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PCT data reveals extent of IVF restrictions

6 September 2010
Appeared in BioNews 574

Data made available under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that in some areas of the UK, PCTs have placed a blanket ban on requests for IVF treatment because of depleted resources.

A spokesperson from NHS Warrington - one such PCT - said: 'Following recommendations from the review of IVF, the NHS Warrington Board has decided to stop funding IVF treatment. The decision will be reviewed in July 2011. The PCT will consider applications from GPs for 'exceptional treatment' approval where they consider there is an exceptional clinical need'.

The Warrington Board reviewed several services they said were 'expensive but which involve a low number of people and [do] not match the PCT's goals', and IVF was the first to be cut.

Nine trusts out of 124 who participated in the survey requested by GP publication Pulse said that they have not funded any IVF treatment in the last two years, despite 2004 guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) which said that up to three cycles of IVF should be made available to all eligible patients.

The information has provoked outrage from fertility experts including Mr Tony Rutherford, chair of the British Fertility Society who said: 'This is a retrograde step, out of keeping with all messages coming from central Government, and shows scant regard for the needs of the one in six couples who suffer from infertility'.

He added that GPs' inability to refer patients for IVF constituted the denial of a 'fundamental right''.

Other trusts making cutbacks are NHS Brighton and Hove City which has restricted the number of GP referrals for IVF to two from 2009/10.

NHS Cornwall revised its IVF policy in December 2009 in light of the national economic situation saying: 'In the context of limited resources, treatment should be targeted at those with the most need and the greatest chance of success'. It now funds four cycles of intra-uterine insemination and just one cycle of IVF per couple.

A NICE spokesperson said a review into guidance for funding of fertility treatment had begun 'to ensure all of its recommendations reflect current evidence'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Patients denied IVF treatment by cash-strapped PCTs
Pulse |  3 September 2010
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