On 14 December, Harrow PCT made an initial recommendation to suspend all assisted conception treatment until March 2012 due to financial constraints, in a move estimated to result in savings of approximately £400,000.
The National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) was 'outraged' by the proposal and wrote to the PCT's chair raising its concerns. After a board meeting on 11 January, Harrow PCT discarded its initial proposal and instead decided to adopt the NHS London North West Sector policy. This means that IVF treatment will continue as before in Harrow and patients will be entitled to one IVF cycle of one fresh and one frozen blastocyst.
Responding to concerns of a 'postcode lottery', the unified policy seeks to ensure consistency across the area. It falls short, however, of the 2004 National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines, which state that up to three cycles of IVF should be offered on the NHS to eligible couples where the woman is aged between 23 and 39 years old. The guidelines are currently under review, with final revisions expected in 2012.
In a letter seen by BioNews, Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, said: 'I am aware that many PCTs have made successful progress in implementing the existing NICE recommendations. If these PCTs can achieve that then it should be within the reach of others to do the same'.
Many PCTs across the country have suspended the provision of NHS fertility treatment, citing financial constraints as the motive.