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NHS cutbacks worsen IVF 'postcode lottery' in England

14 August 2017
Appeared in BioNews 913

Funding cuts by the UK's NHS has meant that 13 areas in England have restricted or halted IVF treatment since the start of 2017, according to Fertility Network UK.

A further eight areas are consulting on taking similar measures, and the situation is worsening says the charity which monitors IVF provision. These cuts amount to a 'postcode lottery' said regional co-ordinator Anya Sizer to Sky News.

NICE recommends that three full cycles of IVF are offered to women under 40 who have not become pregnant after trying to conceive for two years. Currently, only 27 of England's 207 CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) meet this guidance.

In effect, patients in some parts of England may be able to get three fully funded cycles of IVF, while those in a neighbouring CCG, may get no NHS treatment. 'There you have a distance of a few miles up the road and you have a completely different funding experience,' said Ms Sizer.

Earlier this year Croydon became the first London CCG to stop funding IVF to help save £836,000 annually. 

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCGs are currently holding a consultation on restricting fertility treatment to women aged 30-35 and would be the first in the UK to apply such limitations (see BioNews 912).

An NHS England spokesperson said of the cutbacks to IVF: 'Ultimately these are decisions for Clinical Commissioning Groups, who are under an obligation to balance the various competing demands on the NHS locally while living within the budget parliament has allocated.'

But many have spoken out against the cuts. A spokesperson from the UK Department of Health said: 'Fertility problems can have a serious and lasting impact on families and the NHS should provide access to services, including IVF, for all patients that meet the criteria set out by independent experts at NICE.'

Leceia Gordon-Mackenzie, deputy chief executive of Fertility Network UK, told the BBC: 'England pioneered IVF approaching 40 years ago, but that achievement is meaningless if only those who can afford to pay for IVF benefit from it.'

Fertility expert Professor Simon Fishel told the UK's Guardian newspaper: 'What is the point of having NICE guidelines if they are not adhered to?'

He added: 'If the country decides it will not fund IVF then fine, that is a decision that affects everyone ... but what I cannot abide is the local variation for something like this, which doesn’t reflect local populations.'

The situation is different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as they all offer the same number of cycles across the country (three, two and one, respectively).

Cuts to IVF have led to 'postcode lottery' in England, campaigners say
Sky News |  7 August 2017
IVF cut back in 13 areas of England to save money, new data shows
The Guardian |  6 August 2017
NHS access to IVF being cut in England
BBC |  6 August 2017
17 August 2020 - by Martha Roberts 
Relationship status and body mass index (BMI), are being used to restrict people's access to NHS-funded fertility treatment...
5 February 2018 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
A report by the UK's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests that increasing government funding of IVF could decrease the number of multiple pregnancies and their associated strain on the NHS...
6 November 2017 - by Sarah Norcross 
Sarah Norcross, Director of the Progress Educational Trust and Co-Chair of the campaigning organisation Fertility Fairness, speaks on TV and radio about worsening access to publicly funded IVF...
30 October 2017 - by Shaoni Bhattacharya 
Access to IVF in England has worsened considerably over the last five years, according to data obtained by Fertility Fairness...
23 October 2017 - by Dr Michelle Rodgers 
Equity and access are among the most urgent issues for medically assisted reproduction. According to Ireland's Health Research Board, across Europe six countries offer full public funding, and 19 countries offer partial public funding...
7 August 2017 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Clinical Commissioning Groups in the Bristol region are the first to propose restricting NHS-funded IVF treatment to women aged 30 to 35 years...
26 June 2017 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
From November 2017, patients will no longer be able to receive IVF at the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine, Southmead Hospital...
27 March 2017 - by Rikita Patel 
New patients referred for infertility treatment by their doctors will now have access to three cycles of IVF on the NHS in Scotland...
20 March 2017 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Croydon has become the first Clinical Commissioning Group in London to cut funding for all IVF treatment, other than in 'exceptional circumstances'...
23 January 2017 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
Steve McCabe MP has led a parliamentary debate on the variable provision of fertility treatments across the UK, calling for a revision to how fertility services are funded and provided...
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