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Northern Ireland U-turn on proposed fertility funding cuts

16 October 2017
Appeared in BioNews 922

IVF services in Northern Ireland have had a reprieve, but cuts will go ahead in parts of Hertfordshire.

The Northern Ireland Department of Finance has used devolved powers to reallocate unspent funds including £40 million to the health service, averting planned cuts to fertility services.

In part due to the political deadlock at Stormont, health services in the region were facing a £70 million shortfall. A number of cuts had been proposed (see BioNews 918), including effectively removing funding for the one cycle of IVF per couple currently offered in Northern Ireland by deferring all referrals to the regional fertility centre until April 2018.

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said that the reallocated funds 'will allow us to stand down almost all of our major and controversial proposals'.

Meanwhile in Hertfordshire, East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has reduced its offer from three cycles on the NHS per couple (as recommended by NICE) to one, as part of a package of money-saving measures.

Dr Nicky Williams of the North Hertfordshire CCG said: 'Most people in the East and North Hertfordshire CCG area who responded to our consultation told us that they wanted to retain some NHS funding for IVF and specialist fertility services, so I am pleased that our CCG has been able to do this, although provision has been reduced to one cycle.'

Neighbouring Herts Valleys CCG, which previously offered one cycle, has decided to remove IVF funding entirely for at least a year.

GP Corina Ciobanu, a member of Herts Valley CCG, said to the Welwyn Hatfield Times: 'We debated this at great length. We are in a dire financial situation and we are in danger of having to stop really basic services. The GPs have taken pay cuts, the acting staff, everybody, we are really squeezed to the limit.'

Herts Valley's chairman, Dr Nicholas Small, told the Watford Observer: 'Proposals on IVF services in particular generated strong feelings and it was an especially difficult decision.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Belfast woman 'cried tears of joy' over IVF announcement
BBC |  12 October 2017
Health and education departments to get funding boost
BBC |  11 October 2017
NHS-funded IVF treatment slashed as several cost-cutting measures backed at showdown meeting
Welwyn Hatfield Times |  12 October 2017
NHS services - including IVF treatment - slashed in cost-cutting exercise
Watford Observer |  16 October 2017
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