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