We should all thank Steve McCabe, the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Selly Oak for raising the issue of NHS funding for fertility treatment in a Backbench Business Debate at Westminster supported by Tom Brake, the MP for Carshalton and Wallington, and Ed Vaizey, the MP for Didcot and Wantage. He’d been contacted by a number of constituents about the problems of the postcode lottery for fertility treatment, and called on the Health Secretary to investigate the cost disparities and the variations of IVF provision across England to find out why NICE guidance isn’t being followed universally.
The Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said that she would be writing to NHS England to ask that it communicates clearly with CCGs the expectation that NICE fertility guidelines should be followed by all.
It is a difficult time for the NHS which we know faces financial challenges, but stopping funding IVF would make little difference to the monetary woes – and indeed may actually end up costing far more if you factor in the long-term distress and depression caused by not being able to access treatment and the risk of patients having multiple embryo transfers overseas and returning with multiple pregnancies which can lead to health risks for both mother and baby.
The debate at Westminster was not well-attended, despite a big campaign by the charity Fertility Network and the campaign group Fertility Fairness. If you haven’t written to your MP about the problems of the postcode lottery yet, it is not too late. You can find details of how to find your MP and what to write on the Fertility Network website and if you are interested in watching the Westminster debate, you can find it here
Infertility Network UK, the country’s support charity for anyone affected by fertility problems, is set for a change of name and logo! From mid-August, the charity will be Fertility Network rather than Infertility Network.
It’s a welcome change – the term “infertility” is no longer so widely used and in fact the majority of those experiencing difficulties getting pregnant are sub-fertile rather than truly infertile. The new name also reflects some of the wider interests of the charity, around campaigning for better fertility education for young people for example. Here’s a preview of the new logo and colour scheme! A new website will follow and will be launched in the Autumn at the Fertility Show.
One of the worst things about infertility is the isolation that it brings – if your friends and colleagues all seem to be getting pregnant and having babies, you may feel you are part of a shrinking circle of people without children. You may start to find that when you go out with a group of your friends, the conversation soon turns to birth plans or weaning – not only do you not have anything to say, it’s also yet another reminder that you don’t have what you most want.
How to combat isolation
One of the best ways to deal with this sense of loneliness is to get together with other people who are going through similar experiences and who will understand exactly how you feel. You may want to do this through an online forum, such as Infertility Network UK‘s Health Unlocked or Fertility Friends, or you may want to actually meet up with other people – and again Infertility Network UK can help with get-togethers across the country.
You may be surprised how much difference it can make to talk to other people and share experiences – and this kind of support can give you strength and resolve as you go through tests and treatment. There’s nothing to lose by giving it a try, and everything to gain. You can find a list of free get-togethers around the UK here