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'.