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'NHS has a responsibility to provide fertility services', says minister

27 September 2010
Appeared in BioNews 577

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has warned Bury Primary Care Trust (PCT) over plans to suspend IVF treatment as a cost-cutting measure, the Manchester Evening News reports. The trust aimed to stem a £1.3 million per month overspend by 'temporarily suspending' routine IVF treatment for new patients below a certain age. Patients already having treatment would continue to receive it.

'Discretionary procedures' like homeopathy, varicose vein surgery and cosmetic surgery are the other services the Trust plans to temporarily suspend. Access to hip and knee replacements, and cataract surgery, meanwhile, will be restricted.

Speaking at a health centre in Salford near Manchester, Mr Lansley reportedly challenged the plans to suspend IVF services: 'The PCT in Bury has a responsibility to ensure it provides a comprehensive health care service. There are limits but they can't just say there are whole areas of activity we can stop doing. From my point of view, I have long said that the NHS has a responsibility to provide fertility services', he said.

'If, for example, a couple have investigations into reasons for infertility, and often significant resources go into that, it is then absurd not to give them appropriate access to IVF in order to try then for them to have a baby'.

Mr John Boyington CBE, Chief Executive of NHS Bury wrote in a letter to the Progress Educational Trust: 'At this stage, these restrictions are in the form of a suspension of commissioning until the end of the financial year. If our plans to return to financial balance are successful, then it is our ardent hope that we can review and remove some, if not all, of the restrictions'.

About the use of the word 'discretionary' to describe IVF procedures, the letter said: 'Our intention was to convey that life threatening procedures are non-discretionary'.

'Bosses to blame for health trust crisis'
Manchester Evening News |  23 September 2010
NHS Bury approves plans to restore financial balance
Bury Primary Care Trust (press release) |  21 September 2010
23 May 2011 - by Kyrillos Georgiadis 
NHS South West Essex has reinstated funding for IVF seven months after suspending the service. The move comes after the PCT reduced running costs by £400,000 last year to financially break even...
13 December 2010 - by Nishat Hyder 
UK health minister Andrew Lansley has expressed concern over the temporary suspension of IVF treatment by several NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) across the country due to financial strain....
1 November 2010 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
NHS North Yorkshire and York is to suspend IVF procedures in the final quarter of this financial year as part of measures to reduce costs....
11 October 2010 - by Rosemary Paxman 
A Vatican official has criticised the decision to award British IVF pioneer Professor Robert Edwards the Nobel Prize in Medicine, saying the choice was 'very perplexing'...
20 September 2010 - by Dr Alan Thornhill 
Julia Manning's report 'Who said pornography was acceptable in the workplace? An investigation into the use of pornography by NHS fertility clinics' is disturbing. All that is missing from this supposed expose is the human story...
13 September 2010 - by Rose Palmer 
A new technology used by Hull IVF unit to prevent clinical mix-ups when sperm and eggs are combined in the laboratory is to be rolled-out for use across the UK, and has been nominated for an award...
6 September 2010 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Data made available under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that in some areas of the UK, primary care trusts (PCTs) have placed a blanket ban on requests for IVF treatment because of depleted resources...
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