IVF funding situation is “shocking”

The latest figures released by Fertility Fairness earlier this week about funding for IVF treatment have been described as “shocking” by the President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Lesley Regan.

Commenting on the fact that so few clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are currently following national guidance and that the number which have completely removed NHS IVF has almost doubled in the last year, Professor Regan said “These figures are shocking and it’s very disappointing to see even fewer CCGs following NICE guidance and providing full access to NHS fertility treatment. Current access to treatment is a postcode lottery and these health inequalities people face are unacceptable. Infertility can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, causing distress, depression, and the breakdown of relationships. IVF treatment is cost-effective and should be available on the NHS. The RCOG is committed to working with UK commissioners and healthcare providers to support them in following NICE Fertility Guidelines.”

Where are you in the IVF league tables?

The campaign group Fertility Fairness has produced a league table of different areas of the country to show how they rank when it comes to fertility treatment. Fertility Fairness has found that 90% of local clinical commissioning groups, who make the decisions about fertility treatment provision, found that nearly 90% were failing to provide the treatment that NICE has deemed to be both clinically effective and cost effective.

The BBC have provided a link to the full table in an article on the subject which shows that the best places to live if you need fertility treatment are Bury, Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale, Oldham and Tameside and Glossop. In some areas couples who are experiencing fertility problems cannot access any treatment. These are Basildon and Brentwood, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Croydon, Herts Valleys, Mid Essex, North East Essex and South Norfolk.

Fertility Fairness Co-Chair Sarah Norcross has been doing media interviews this morning calling for the government to take urgent action about the current funding situation. The government has suggested that commissioners should follow NICE guidance but in practice many are still choosing to completely ignore the evidence about best practice and about cost-effectiveness leaving many patients unable to access treatment at all,

Do you live in Lancashire?

ivf_science-300x168Fertility services in Lancashire are under threat with all eight Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups(CCGs) proposing cuts to NHS-funded IVF. They have a survey which you can complete to make your feelings known about this – it needs to be done by tomorrow, October 14 – http://tinyurl.com/Assisted-Conception-Services

You may also want to write to your MP, as this may help to ensure the CCGs realise that the guidance from NICE which they should be following is both clinically effective and cost effective. Fertility Network UK have a draft email you can use, and if you wish you can add details of your own personal situation which will help to explain to your MP why this is so important – if you are able to help them see how your fertility problems make a difference to you emotionally, financially and socially this will really help. You can find the draft letter which you may wish to email, half way down this webpage http://infertilitynetworkuk.com/nhs_funding_2
The MPs for the areas covered by the eight Lancashire CCGs are:
NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG:
Kate Hollern MP
Email: kate.hollern.mp@parliament.uk
Jake Berry MP
Email: jake.berry.mp@parliament.uk
NHS Blackpool CCG:
Paul Maynard MP
Email: paul.maynard.mp@parliament.uk
Gordon Marsden MP
Email: gordonmarsdenmp@parliament.uk
NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG:
Lindsay Hoyle MP
Email: Lindsay.hoyle.mp@parliament.uk
Seema Kennedy MP
Email: seema.kennedy.mp@parliament.uk
Nigel Evans MP
Email: evansn@parliament.uk
NHS East Lancashire CCG:
Andrew Stephenson MP
Email: andrew.stephenson.mp@parliament.uk
Julie Cooper MP
Email: julie.cooper.mp@parliament.uk
Graham Jones MP
Email: graham.jones.mp@parliament.uk
Jake Berry
Email: jake.berry.mp@parliament.uk
Nigel Evans
Email: evansn@parliament.uk
NHS Fylde & Wyre CCG:
Paul Maynard MP
Email: paul.maynard.mp@parliament.uk
Cat Smith MP
Email: cat.smith.mp@parliament.uk
Ben Wallace MP
Email: wallaceb@parliament.uk
Mark Menzies MP
Email: mark.menzies.mp@parliament.uk
NHS Greater Preston CCG:
Mark Hendrick MP
Email: mark.hendrick.mp@parliament.uk
Seema Kennedy MP
Email: seema.kennedy.mp@parliament.uk
Ben Wallace MP
Email: wallaceb@parliament.uk
Nigel Evans MP
Email: evansn@parliament.uk
NHS Lancashire North CCG:
Cat Smith MP
Email: cat.smith.mp@parliament.uk
Ben Wallace MP
Email: wallaceb@parliament.uk
NHS West Lancashire CCG:
Rosie Cooper MP
Email: rosie@rosiecooper.net
Seema Kennedy MP
Email: seema.kennedy.mp@parliament.uk

Can you help save fertility funding in Suffolk?

images-21Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning group (CCG) and West Suffolk CCG have announced they are consulting on cutting the number of NHS-funded IVF cycles they offer from two cycles. They will either cut to one cycle or stop offering any treatment at all. The CCGs have asked for people to comment on these proposals before 5 September by filling in a feedback form on their website here .

If you live in the area, don’t forget that you can also write to your local MP about the proposals.  The local MPS are:

Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP West Suffolk Matthew@matthewhancock.co.uk

Mr James Cartlidge MP South Suffolk james.cartlidge.mp@parliament.uk

Jo Churchill MP Bury St Edmunds jo.churchill.mp@parliament.uk

Dr Daniel Poulter MP Central Suffolk and North Ipswich daniel.poulter.mp@parliament.uk

Rt Hon Ben Gummer MP Ipswich ben@bengummer.com

Dr Therese Coffey MP Suffolk Coastal therese.coffey.mp@parliament.uk

Susan Seenan, co-chair of Fertility Fairness and chief executive of Infertility Network UK said of the proposals; ‘Why is it increasingly deemed acceptable to remove access to NHS treatment for people with fertility problems? Infertility is defined as a disease and is as deserving of NHS treatment as any other medical condition. To ignore the plight of the approximately 3.5 million people in the UK who are unable to have children without medical help is cruel and unethical.’

Cambridgeshire cuts IVF funding

4cell_embryo.tif More cuts to fertility treatment – this time in Cambridgeshire where commissioners have decided to cut funding for IVF to just one cycle. NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends three full cycles of IVF treatment and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG had only been offering two before this decision but will now reduce that to just one.

Susan Seenan, who is Co-Chair of Fertility Fairness and Chief Executive of the patient support charity Infertility Network UK said that they had not been aware of any tpublic consultation before the commissioners took the decision to cut funding.

Apparently anyone who had already been referred for treatment will not be affected by these changes which will cause huge distress and disappointment to many people who are experiencing fertility problems in the area.


IVF funding in Wales

2016_calendar-1.svgI was glad to see that the fact that waiting times for NHS treatment in Wales can lag behind those in England has been highlighted in the news today.  The news focused on care for certain key conditions, with the biggest difference for hip operations where patients in Wales wait an average of four months longer than those in England. The research also found longer waits for stomach operations and getting diagnosed for pneumonia, with differences in some other areas too.

One of the biggest differences in waiting times not highlighted in this report is for IVF where fertility patients are often having to wait considerably longer than they would do in the rest of the UK. It is far from uncommon to be waiting for a year for fertility treatment in Wales, and this inequality of access is yet another strand of the postcode lottery for IVF in the UK – where you live really does have a huge impact on not only how long you wait, but also how much treatment you can access and what kind of eligibility criteria apply.

For more information about fertility funding and the postcode lottery, you can go to the Infertility Network UK and Fertility Fairness websites.

No fertility treatment for those living in South Norfolk

So, South Norfolk has decided to cut all funding for fertility treatment from the new year. If you live in South Norfolk and have not been referred for treatment before January 1 2016, you will not be treated. For those fortunate enough to have been referred before this date, there will still be access to two cycles of IVF.

People who are undergoing treatment for cancer will currently still be able to access fertility treatment, as will those who have HIV, which is odd as the NICE guidance does not recommend IVF for most of those with HIV.  However the CCG is also going to “review” these exceptions.

South Norfolk say that their decision to cut services follows an “extensive engagement exercise”, and that they considered the views of those for and against cutting the service. I wonder how heavily the petition to protest against this, reportedly signed by 21,000 people was weighed in this decision or the dismay felt by many of those who will no longer  be able to access any help for their medical problems – all for what amounts to a very small saving.

You can read the full statement from South Norfolk CCG here. It will be very difficult for anyone unfortunate enough to live in this area when neighbouring CCGs are funding three or two cycles for those who need IVF.

IVF provision in the UK

It’s National Fertility Awareness Week and the campaign group Fertility Fairness have released a new audit of fertility services to show what is being funded by the NHS in different areas. You can find out more details in this article I wrote for the Guardian online Comment section.

It’s good that there is so much interest in fertility funding – but let’s hope it’s the right sort. I  broke my rule of never reading the comments under the piece this evening, and I remembered why I set the rule in the first place. It amazes me how totally lacking in compassion some people – most often those who had their own children without any difficulty – can be..

Seeing sense on IVF funding

Embryo,_8_cellsWe’ve all heard the arguments about the cash-strapped NHS and IVF is a treatment that commissioners in North East Essex have recently decided they can’t afford.  But is this really a sensible financial decision? Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of cutting funding to one group of patients based on the fact that you’ve decided they aren’t as deserving of treatment as some others, there’s also a question of economics.

In Canada, the funding decisions seem to be going in the opposite direction with more states looking into offering treatment after a very detailed report showed that funding and regulating IVF treatment would actually SAVE money rather than costing money when multiple births were taken into consideration.

This is an issue that was raised with Mid-Essex CCG when they were cutting treatment,a s they were warned that some people would go overseas for cheaper, unregulated treatment. In Mid-Essex, they said this was a risk they were prepared to take, despite the fact that we know that it is the biggest risk to health from fertility treatment – and that one very premature triplet pregnancy could cost more than offering IVF to everyone who needed it in the area. Last year’s Canadian study would back this up as it showed millions of pounds in savings in health care and societal costs over 18 years by offering regulated IVF treatment.

You can read more about what’s happening in Canada here, but it does show that CCG decisions about cutting treatment in this way are unlikely to save any money in the long run and may end up being an expensive mistake.



North East Essex – tell them what you think…

So, North East Essex are the latest commissioning group to announce their plans to stop funding fertility treatment. The commissioners claim that in North East Essex there are “substantial numbers of people whose health, including their fertility, is affected by their lifestyle (for instance smoking, excessive drinking, and lack of exercise)”. Are there really huge numbers of smokers who drink to excess trying to access NHS-funded fertility treatment in the Colchester area?  Most people I talk to who have fertility problems lead extraordinarily healthy lifestyles, so I’d be interested know what you think…

They are suggesting that fertility treatment should only be available for people who have had cancer and for couples where the male partner has Hepatitis C or HIV (in these they are proposing to offer ICSI despite the fact that NICE doesn’t recommend this at all).

You can read more about their proposals here. They are arranging a series of consultation “events”, so if you are able to get along to any of these, please do speak up for fertility patients.  You can email neeccg.enquiries@nhs.net to say you’ll be there.

The first is on Tuesday 7 July in Colchester at 6pm at Room 12a, Primary Care Centre, Turner Road, Colchester CO4 5JR.

The next is on Friday 10 July at 2pm in Clacton at Princes Theatre, Town Hall, Station Road, Clacton CO15 1SE

Then on Thursday 16 July at 6.30pm at Clacton at the Princes Theatre, Town Hall, Station Road, Clacton CO15 1SE

And finally on Tuesday 21 July at 10am at Walton on the Naze at Columbine Centre, Prince’s Esplanade, Walton on the Naze CO14 8PZ