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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'.

Patients denied IVF treatment by cash-strapped PCTs
Pulse |  3 September 2010
23 May 2011 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
UK military personnel who have sustained injuries affecting their fertility will receive three free cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS. This forms part of the Military Covenant, which is soon to be brought into law...
14 March 2011 - by Sujatha Jayakody 
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...
28 February 2011 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
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...
13 December 2010 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
NHS Medway in Kent, South East England, has joined several other trusts in suspending funding for new referrals for IVF treatment until the new financial year when the decision will be reviewed....
6 December 2010 - by Kyrillos Georgiadis 
Stockport NHS Trust has announced it is to stop funding IVF treatment for new patients. The Primary Care Trust (PCT), which is attempting to implement spending cuts totalling £21 million, will allow patients currently on its IVF waiting list to receive one cycle of treatment...
1 July 2010 - by National Infertility Awareness Campaign 
When the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) was asked to produce a clinical guideline on infertility back in 2000, it was with the aim of creating fairer and faster access to services for patients. At that time, the vast majority of couples seeking treatment for infertility had to pay for it privately...
5 June 2010 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
Political consensus in Denmark has resulted in an amendment to legislation governing IVF funding. According to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), free public health services will no longer extend towards assisted reproduction treatments (ART)....
21 December 2009 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
The NHS must improve access to IVF, according to a new policy briefing from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)...
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