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Audit shows IVF postcode lottery in England has worsened

30 October 2017
Appeared in BioNews 924

Access to IVF in England has worsened considerably over the last five years, according to data obtained by Fertility Fairness.

Around one in ten CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) in England meet national guidelines on IVF provision, found the campaign group. This is half the number of CCGs meeting the guidelines in 2013.

Fertility Fairness compiled data from all 208 CCGs to which it sent Freedom of Information requests. Of these, only 12 percent are following the recommendation by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) to provide three full rounds of IVF to eligible women under 40, compared with 24 per cent of CCGs doing so in 2013, said the group.

'The key thing is there is a clear pattern of decommissioning of services,' said Sarah Norcross, co-chair of Fertility Fairness.

While the number of areas offering three cycles of NHS-funded IVF has fallen, the number of CCGs offering just one IVF cycle has risen to 61 percent from 49 percent in 2013. Seven CCGs, or 3.4 percent, have removed NHS-funded IVF altogether – more than three times the number in 2015.

And a further seven per cent of CCGs are currently consulting on removing or cutting NHS fertility treatment (see BioNews 913), says the audit.

NICE also recommends that eligible women aged 40-42 should be offered one cycle of IVF on the NHS. The audit found that only half of CCGs (51 percent) were doing this. 

'The NHS should provide access to fertility services, including IVF, for all patients that meet the criteria,' a UK Department of Health spokesperson told the BBC, adding that CCGs have been advised to meet the NICE guidelines.

NHS England said: 'Ultimately these are legally decisions for CCGs, who are under an obligation to balance the various competing demands on the NHS locally while living within the budget Parliament has allocated.'

Fertility Fairness also revealed a league table of the best and worst areas to live for access to NHS-funded IVF. The top areas included four areas in Greater Manchester. The worst areas, which do not offer any NHS-funded IVF, were Herts Valleys, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Croydon, South Norfolk, Basildon & Brentwood, Mid- Essex and North East Essex.

'We'd like to see someone take responsibility for turning this around,' said Norcross, who is also director of Progress Educational Trust, which publishes BioNews. 'And it needs to be done as a matter of urgency because women's biological clocks don't stop ticking while policy is sorted out.'

IVF: Patients face postcode lottery for treatment
BBC |  30 October 2017
Number of CCGs offering 3 IVF cycles has halved since 2013
Fertility Fairness |  30 October 2017
12 August 2019 - by Dr Maria Botcharova 
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group has decided to withdraw NHS-funded fertility services after a temporary suspension in 2017...
23 April 2018 - by Sarah Pritchard 
A new Ten Minute Rule Bill was introduced on 18 April which, if passed, will end the IVF 'postcode lottery' in the UK...
19 March 2018 - by Richard Kennedy 
The global burden of infertility has been estimated as 48 million. As we approach the 40th anniversary of the birth of Louise Brown, the first child conceived following IVF, it is timely to reflect on the global revolution of assisted reproduction services...
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...
9 October 2017 - by Georgia Everett 
For the first time couples in Ireland will be eligible for financial aid for fertility treatments, after the Government signed off new proposals last week...
14 August 2017 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
Funding cuts by the UK's National Health Service has meant that 13 areas in England have restricted or halted IVF treatment since the start of 2017, according to Fertility Network UK...
27 February 2017 - by Georgia Everett 
Women over the age of 34 will no longer be entitled to receive IVF funded by the NHS in some areas of Nottinghamshire...
12 December 2016 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
Only 16 percent of Clinical Commissioning Groups in England follow the national guidance on access to NHS fertility treatment, according to an audit by campaign group Fertility Fairness...
20 June 2016 - by Stephen Harbottle 
Since its launch in 1948, the NHS has become the world's largest publicly funded health service and a beacon of what is possible to the rest of the world. Unless, it seems, you are finding it hard to conceive...
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