Following the recent cuts to NHS services, The Fertility Network UK has reported that the cutbacks have resulted in a “Postcode Lottery” for couples trying to conceive using IVF treatment. The figures also show that the number of clinics in England which offer couples three full cycles has fallen to a new low of 27% this year. The recommendations for the NHS are that women under 40 should be offered three IVF cycles after they’ve been trying to conceive for two or more years. These new policies contradict this advice, with the NHS choosing to offer only one or two cycles in some areas; and some authorities choosing to eliminate free IVF treatment altogether.
Prof Simon Fishel, part of the team who originally pioneered IVF in the UK recently stated “What is the point of having Nice guidelines if they are not adhered to? 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. You have to treat citizens equally and this is a deliberate inequality and obfuscation and allows some areas to say they are offering IVF but when it comes down to the detail, only a tiny fraction of those who need it have access to it.”
What effect will the new restrictions have?
The new restrictions will vary depending on location. Some services will remain unaffected, while parts of Essex and the South of England will lose free IVF treatment altogether. NHS providers in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are currently holding consultations on making further age restrictions on treatment, making it only available to women aged 30-35. A spokesperson for the three CCGs said: “We know how hard it can be for couples who are struggling to conceive and will continue to offer fertility treatment to hundreds of people every year. Clinical evidence shows that treatment between the ages of 30-35 offers the highest possible chance of success.”
Which areas will be affected?
NHS Croydon is one of the healthcare providers which has announced its plans to eliminate IVF treatment this year. A spokesperson recently claimed that due to “severe financial pressures”, the decision has been made that it will no longer offer couples free IVF services and that this will be reviewed again in the near future. NHS Croydon claims that “We have a duty to look at the entirety of health needs across the borough and this very difficult decision will help us to prioritise frontline services” Other areas affected include parts of Essex, Swindon and Cheshire.