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.



The only way is NOT Essex says fertility campaign group

ivf_science-300x168The campaign group Fertility Fairness has warned that the only way is certainly NOT Essex as North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced today that they would stop funding fertility treatment.

Essex has become a fertility blackspot, with both North East Essex and Mid Essex deciding to ignore the guidance from NICE which is based on what is clinically and cost effective. They have instead cut all IVF to couples with fertility problems.

North East Essex, making their announcement today, very generously added that couples who can’t conceive will still be able to see their GP for advice about their fertility problems – so you’ll be able to go and see your doctor who will be able to tell you about the treatment you need, but unless you can pay yourself, you won’t be able to access it.

We all know that the NHS doesn’t have limitless funds, what would make sense is for CCGs to find out how much IVF actually costs. A survey from Fertility Fairness last year found that there were huge variations in the prices paid for NHS treatment by different CCGs.  Cutting access to treatment is an easy way to try to reduce budgets, but is often not a wise or thoughtful solution.

Fertility Fairness say North East Essex decision is ‘shameful’

Responding to the decision today, Sarah Norcross, co-chair of Fertility Fairness, said: ‘It is shameful that only the well-off in North East Essex and Mid Essex will be able to access fertility treatment. Fertility services should be available for everyone eligible for treatment; not just the rich. This is a clear example of health inequality in practice. If you have the misfortune to have a fertility problem then the only way is not Essex.’

Fertility Fairness co-chair and chief executive of Infertility Network UK Susan Seenan added: ‘Funding fertility treatment is an investment in the future. Essex’s decision is short-sighted in the extreme. Fertility treatment is proven to be both clinically and cost effective, as recommended by the National Institute for Care and Clinical Excellence.’

Are you affected by this?

If you live in North East or Mid Essex and are no longer able to access the treatment you need, or if you have had a baby after NHS-funded IVF in one of these two areas, the BBC would like to hear from you – contact Claire by email at

Lord Winston calls for better provision of NHS fertility treatment

Thanks to Lord Winston, for using the occasion of receiving an honorary degree from Birmingham City University to call for better provision of IVF from the NHS. This comes at a time when we’ve seen a number of high-profile cases where commissioners are clearly showing how little commitment they have to helping fertility patients – from Vale of York where the CCG did a bizarre U-turn having promised to start funding IVF and then changing their minds just a few weeks later to Mid-Essex where they have come up with the extraordinary idea of only offering fertility treatment to people who don’t actually have fertility problems…

Lord Winston also talked about alternatives to IVF – as he feels it is often offered as the only treatment where others may be just as good if not better. You can read more about what he said here 

It’s not too late to have your say on fertility funding in Essex

Just a quick reminder that there’s still time to have your say on fertility funding in mid-Essex where the CCG are proposing to cut fertility treatment to all fertility patients – and only offer it to people who are having cancer treatment and HIV positive men.  Why those two groups? You may well ask… It seems that both were mentioned in last year’s update of the NICE fertility guidelines – but that was only because the way these groups should be offered treatment needed updating, not because they were being singled out in any other way.

One of the fertility clinics in the area, Simply Fertility, have come out and expressed their concern about this – and you can do that too. Have a look at the Simply Fertility blog for more details, or go straight to the consultation here and fill in the survey by following the link.  It doesn’t take long, and your views will be appreciated.

Would you be affected by cuts to fertility services in mid-Essex?

If you live in mid-Essex and need fertility treatment, would you be prepared to talk about it?  Could you help highlight and hopefully stop the proposal to reduce funding for IVF treatment from three cycles to practically zero other than for a minority of cancer patients? Help is urgently needed to help show what these proposed cuts in services would mean to real people… If you can help email – thank you!