Fertility Forum speakers

Next month’s Fertility Forum promises to be an informative event for anyone who wants to know more about their fertility, tests and treatment options. The wide range of speakers will be covering topics across the board to ensure there is something for everyone whether you are just starting to think about your future fertility or have already had treatment. The full list of topics and speakers is now finalised:

  • Fertility specialist Raj Mathur will look at what can affect your chances of conceiving naturally, when and how to seek advice and will run through the tests you should have.
  • Miscarriage expert Professor Lesley Regan will cover the causes of miscarriage and why do some women experience recurrent miscarriage. She will discuss investigations and what can be done to help.
  • Fertility specialist Ertan Saridogan will give the low down on endometriosis and how it can affect fertility. He will cover all the options for treatment and how to choose between them.
  • Leading male fertility specialist Professor Allan Pacey will explain male fertility and how sperm are made. He will talk about what affects the number and quality of sperm that a man make and the tests that are used to diagnose male fertility problems, as well as the solutions that can be offered.
  • Director of the Donor Conception Network Nina Barnsley will explain what you need to think about when considering donor treatment, how to decide whether it’s right for you and will discuss openness around donor treatment.
  • Chair of the Association of Clinical Embryologists Jason Kasraie will look at the latest new techniques and technologies in the fertility world and consider evidence is as to whether they work and discuss the factors that influence the chances of successful treatment.
  • Fertility counsellor and Chair of the British Infertility Counselling Association Angela Pericleous-Smith will discuss the pressures on yourself, your relationships and your friendships. She will explore coping strategies and explain how to manage anxieties.
  • Fertility specialist Ephia Yasmin will be explaining all you need to need to know about egg freezing including the chances of success, as well as looking forward to future developments in egg freezing.
  • Women’s Voices Lead at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Kate Brian explores why people chose to go overseas and looks at the risks and benefits. She will give some tips to consider when you are making a decision.
  • The HFEA’s Jo Triggs will explain what to look for when choosing a clinic, what statistics can and can’t tell you and will explore the other factors you should take into account.
  • Fertility Fest founder Jessica Hepburn will chair a session with Gateway Women’s Jody Day, authors Lesley Pyne and Yvonne John and the Dovecot’s Kelly Da Silva who have all helped to change the way we think about living without children. They will discuss how to find peace and happiness after unsuccessful treatment, and will talk about the societal attitudes to childlessness that need changing.
  • Professor Adam Balen is a leading specialist in PCOS and will discuss the causes of this common cause of fertility problems. He will discuss how PCOS should be investigated and treated and will also look at ways that you can help yourself.
  • If you want to know more about IVF, fertility specialist Jane Stewart will explain what assisted conception is and why it doesn’t always work. She will talk about the limitations of IVF and why it may not always be the right treatment.
  • One of the UK’s leading embryologists, Rachel Cutting will explain how embryos develop from fertilisation to blastocyst. She will look at how embryos are graded and selected, and will explore how time-lapse can help. She will also talk about embryo freezing.
  • Men often get overlooked when it comes to fertility support. Richard Clothier has been a leading voice for men’s experiences of fertility problems. He will focus on men and fertility, and the importance of talking as well as exploring tips for mitigating the grief.
  • Is your lifestyle having an impact on your fertility? Grace Dugdale is a reproductive biologist and nutrition scientist and will give evidence-based information about health, diet and lifestyle in relation to male and female fertility. She will talk about what can impact your fertility, and about preparing your body for pregnancy.
  • IVF treatment is usually more like a marathon than a sprint. Emotional and financial resilience are crucial to continuing the journey, and there can be pressure to pay for additional tests, drugs or interventions which may not increase the chances of success. Fertility specialist Professor Yacoub Khalaf will discuss what’s worth paying for and what isn’t.
  • Are you eligible for NHS funded fertility treatment? There are guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on who should qualify, but these are often ignored. Sarah Norcross from Fertility Fairness and Aileen Feeney from Fertility Network UK will explain the current funding situation and what you should be entitled to.
  • Psychology Professor Jacky Boivin explains stress, and what evidence there is about the impact it may have on fertility. She will also discuss strategies for coping with stress.
  • What is ovarian reserve testing and what does it mean? Fertility specialist Melanie Davies will look at ovarian testing and what it can and can’t tell you. She will explain the realities of having fertility treatment when you are older and what this means for the chances of success.
  • One of the UK’s leading fertility lawyers, Natalie Gamble,will discuss the legal situation regarding parenthood for sperm and egg donation. She will explain surrogacy law and practice, recent developments and law reform.

You can choose which of these amazing sessions to attend – tickets for the day are now available at £25 which covers the costs of putting on the day. You can find out more and book your tickets here – https://bit.ly/FertilityForum

 

 

New restrictions on IVF funding

It’s National Fertility Awareness Week and today the campaign group Fertility Fairness has released an audit which has found new restrictions on IVF funding. The survey covered all the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England and found that 80% are failing to follow the NICE guidance which says that all eligible couples under the age of 39 should be offered 3 full cycles of IVF treatment.

Many are also setting new criteria to limit eligibility for treatment. Despite the fact that neither male age nor weight affect the success rate of IVF, more than a quarter of CCGs have decided to use the male partner’s body mass index (BMI) to decide whether a couple can access NHS treatment, and 8% no longer offer NHS funding if the male partner is 55 or over. Around one in four CCGs also use AMH or antral-follicle count to check a women’s ovarian reserve (an estimate of the number of eggs in the ovaries) to decide whether she is eligible for IVF. The NICE guidance gives some guidance on levels at which these may be helpful to assess how a woman may respond to the drugs used in IVF to stimulate the ovaries, but there is no suggestion at all that this might be used to decide who should be eligible for treatment.

Consultant gynaecologist and Fertility Fairness committee member Raj Mathur, said: ‘ Male age and BMI are not in the NICE guidance as criteria for IVF and there is no strong evidence of impact on clinical outcomes of IVF. AMH and antral follicle count are in the NICE guideline as predictors of ovarian response, but NOT as predictors of the chance of having a baby through IVF. Commissioners are making unjustified extrapolation in using them for rationing.’

The audit found that

  • 3.6% of CCGs have removed NHS IVF entirely
  • 40% do not offer a full IVF cycle, limiting the number of frozen embryo transfers
  • 20% offer one full IVF cycle, transferring all fresh and frozen embryos
  • 23% offer two IVF cycles.
  • 13% offer three IVF cycles.

In the last two years, 30 CCGs have reduced NHS fertility services, and one in ten CCGs is currently consulting on cutting or removing NHS fertility treatment.

Sarah Norcross, co-chair of Fertility Fairness, said: ‘It is shocking to see CCGs introducing their own ‘access to IVF’ criteria, as well as reducing the number of IVF cycles they offer. It is not the CCG’s job to decide the criteria for accessing NHS fertility services. NICE has accessed the evidence in its guideline and developed access criteria for NHS patients and they do not include male BMI, male age, a woman’s AMH level or whether or not a couple has a child from a previous relationship. What criteria will CCGs introduce next; star signs and shoe size? CCGs need to remove their extra ‘access to IVF’ criteria now.’

Aileen Feeney, co-chair of Fertility Fairness and chief executive of leading national charity Fertility Network UK said: ‘ Fertility Network is extremely concerned about the effect that reducing access to NHS IVF has on already distressed patients. Infertility is a devastating disease causing depression, suicidal feelings, relationship breakdown and social isolation; removing the recommended clinical help or making it harder to access is cruel and economically short-sighted. Access to NHS treatment should be according to medical need and not your postcode. We urge anyone affected to join Fertility Network’s #Scream4IVF campaign calling for fair access to NHS IVF in the UK; with your help we can reach 100,000 signatures and hold a debate on the issue at Westminster. Sign the petition at www.scream4IVF.org and share your #Scream4IVF during Fertility Week.’

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,

Plans to cut IVF in Bedfordshire

ivf_science-300x168If you live in Bedfordshire, you should be aware that campaign group Fertility Fairness have produced a news release today warning that commissioners there are considering a blanket ban on NHS fertility treatment.

Susan Seenan, co-chair of Fertility Fairness said: ‘Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health Jane Ellison has said that blanket restrictions on procedures that do not take account of the individual healthcare needs of patients are unacceptable. Despite this,Bedfordshire clinical commissioning group has announced it is consulting on implementing a blanket ban on NHS fertility treatment.’

‘Infertility is a disease and is as deserving of treatment as any other medical condition. We are calling on the Government to act now – to make it clear that while clinical commissioning groups have to operate within their financial budgets and consider the needs of their local healthcare population, they should not be implementing blanket bans on services.’

Across England, consultation responses supporting the continuation of NHS fertility services are being routinely ignored; Fertility Fairness would like undertakings from Bedfordshire clinical commissioning group that this will not happen on this occasion.’

Sarah Norcross, co-chair of Fertility Fairness said: ‘While Bedfordshire clinical commissioning group has promised to consult local people about their views regarding the provision of NHS fertility services, we are not reassured that this public consultation will be anything other than a meaningless exercise. There is now a striking North-South divide between the levels of provision of NHS fertility treatment. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that it is both clinically and cost effective that all eligible couples should receive up to three full NHS-funded cycles of IVF or ICSI where women are aged under 40. However, just 17.2 per cent of England’s 209 CCGs follow this national guidance and provide access to three NHS- funded IVF cycles. Of the 36 clinical commissioning groups offering three NHS-funded IVF cycles, the vast majority – 78 per cent – are in the North; just eight regions in the South (22 per cent) follow NICE’s recommendation regarding NHS fertility treatment. All the areas that have decommissioned NHS fertility services, or are consulting on doing so, are in the South of England.’

If you are going to be affected by this, do make sure that your voice is heard. Contact Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning group, contact Healthwatch and write to your local MP. If you are affected by this and are happy to talk to the media,  do please email catherinehill@infertilitynetworkuk.com

More cuts to fertility funding – now it’s Somerset

ivf_science-300x168I’m off to the South West for the day today – and am sad to note that it is one of the worst areas in the country when it comes to the provision of NHS-funded fertility treatment. Earlier this week, Somerset became the most recent area to cut IVF fertility treatment and offer just one single cycle of funded IVF.

When funding for fertility treatment is cut, the excuse is often that commissioners are only following what the public wants. However, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have decided to cut fertility funding despite the fact when they carried out a public consultation, most people wanted them to offer three full cycles rather than cutting down to one.  Sarah Norcross, Co-Chair of Fertility Fairness explains: ‘The CCG’s own consultation shows that the majority of people consulted (57 per cent) want three cycles of IVF to be funded and that the majority of those consulted (74 per cent) also said that the number of NHS-funded IVF cycles should not be reduced in order to balance the costs of reducing fertility treatment waiting times from three years to two. We are appalled to see patients and the public ignored and let down by Somerset CCG.

Susan Seenan, co-chair of Fertility Fairness and chief executive of leading fertility charity Infertility Network UK said: ‘Somerset CCG is also ignoring national public health guidance on treating the disease of infertility. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends that it is both clinically and cost effective that all eligible couples should receive up to three full NHS-funded cycles of IVF or ICSI where women are aged under 40. Reducing IVF provision will have a drastic impact on patients and the health economy. The pain and grief of fertility problems has severe social and economic consequences – leading to depression, social isolation and the breakdown of relationships.’

So why do Clinical Commissioning Groups so often decide that fertility patients don’t deserve the treatment NICE recommends? Why are so many cutting back? And what can we do to stop it? If your local provision is not good, writing to your MP or local Healthwatch will certainly help – look at the Infertility Network UK website for some template letters to assist with this, and do visit the Fertility Fairness website too for more information about provision across the UK and the campaign to improve it.

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 claire.brennan@bbc.co.uk

Fertility Fairness

Y3qgabAY_400x400We’re often told that IVF is not a terribly successful treatment, that 75% of cycles won’t work – and this is sometimes cited by people who don’t agree that the NHS should fund fertility treatment. Earlier this week, I went to the event at Westminster organised by campaign group Fertility Fairness where there were some compelling arguments about the clinical and cost effectiveness of funding three full cycles of IVF as recommended by NICE.

One of the speakers at the event, Tim Child from Oxford Fertility Unit, presented some figures from his clinic for IVF success rates for the NHS patients they treat aged under 37 who were getting the three full cycles of IVF recommended by NICE. The statistics showed an 80% cumulative success rate over three full cycles.  So, the majority of patients will be successful when NICE guidance is followed – which isn’t what we are often led to believe. What is sometimes forgotten when CCGs talk about funding for fertility is that they don’t need to pay for three full cycles for every patient – as more people get pregnant with each  transfer, the number of additional payments needed diminishes – and yet calculations often seem to be based on the idea that every patient will need the three full cycles.

Infertility Network UK‘s Chief Executive Susan Seenan, who is also Co-Chair of Fertility Fairness along with Sarah Norcross, spoke about the realities of the impact of CCGs policies on fertility funding for patients. She told of one patient who was unable to access the treatment she needed because her partner had a child from a previous relationship. The “child” was in fact a 25 year old who lived abroad, but this still meant that the couple were denied treatment.

If you want to know more about funding for fertility, and what you can do if your CCG doesn’t fund treatment, you can visit the Fertility Fairness website – and the pages on funding on the Infertility Network UK site have templates for writing to your MP or CCG too.

 

The shocking truth about the cost of IVF to the NHS

You’d assume that the amount the NHS pays for each IVF cycle is pretty much the same wherever you live – and that commissioners negotiate a good deal given that they are purchasing IVF treatments in bulk…

In fact, the campaign group Fertility Fairness has discovered that the amount paid by the NHS for a cycle of IVF treatment varies hugely across the UK, costing at least twice as much in some areas as in others. Fertility Fairness has gathered information from all but one of the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across England which shows that average prices paid for IVF range from £2,900 to £6,000, with some claiming even higher and lower costs.

Their audit also shows a clear reduction in the number of CCGs offering the three full cycles of IVF treatment recommended, with just 18% currently offering what NICE recommends.  Two CCGs offer no IVF funding at all, and seven others were claiming to offer three cycles of IVF when in fact they only offered one.

Y3qgabAY_400x400Sarah Norcross, Co-Chair of Fertility Fairness, said: “Our audit has revealed a picture of widespread confusion about the real cost of IVF, and illustrates the need for a national tariff to inject some parity and value into the commissioning process. Cost is cited by NHS commissioners as a major barrier to complying with NICE guidance, and yet we now know that it is not even clear how much an individual cycle of IVF should cost. The discrepancies are huge, and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of patient charity Infertility Network UK said: “Access to fertility treatment in the UK still depends entirely on where you live, and patients are at the mercy of the postcode lottery. Now it appears that some CCGs are apparently paying more for a cycle of NHS-funded IVF than an individual patient might expect to be charged at a private clinic. It is patients who suffer the effects of this mismanaged system. Clear guidance on costing would help CCGs to implement the NICE guideline fully and allow patients to access the treatment they need.”

For more information about Fertility Fairness, visit www.fertilityfairness.co.uk