York has not been the place to have a fertility problem for many years, having funded no IVF treatment at all. Then, earlier this year, hopes were raised when Vale of York CCG announced that it would offer funding for one cycle of IVF. Sadly, just a month later and before anyone had managed to benefit, the CCG said it had decided it couldn’t afford to do this after all, estimating the cost at £2 million to offer one cycle to an estimated 110 people (and explaining what other essential services they could provide with this much money). This rather baffling figure was more than four times the cost of IVF at most fertility clinics.
Now, Vale of York CCG is due to look at IVF funding again on Thursday and may change their minds once more on this policy having looked again at the cost.
Of course, anyone in York waiting for treatment will be delighted if they are finally able to access one cycle of treatment, but we shouldn’t forget that this is still not what NICE recommends that the CCG should be funding – three full cycles to those under 39 who are eligible. And we should perhaps take a moment to think about how this must feel for those people who have spent the last few months having their hopes raised and dashed because the CCG has not been able to come to a clear conclusion.
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
Many couples living in the area covered by the Vale of York CCG were left devastated by the decision to make a U-turn on the promise to start funding some fertility treatment. Having been singled out as the worst provider in the country, it had seemed that the local CCG was about to improve matters for fertility patients – and so the change of heart just a month after the original promise seemed particularly cruel.
It has now emerged that one of the panel of voters – who had been in favour of offering IVF to local patients – abstained from the vote because he will be standing as an election candidate. You can read the full story in the Yorkshire Post, but it has emerged that the vote was lost five to four – which would not have been the case had Dr Mark Hayes used his vote. This was also covered by ITV News.
A petition has been launched by the fantastic fertility support group in York, and you can sign it here – please do!
Just last month, Vale of York CCG was being widely praised for finally agreeing to fund a limited amount of fertility treatment for the first time, so it was a huge shock when it suddenly announced yesterday that it wasn’t going to be able to do it after all. What was perhaps even more of a shock was the financial justification for this – that funding one IVF cycle for 110 people was apparently going to cost them £2 million.
It does raise serious questions about financial planning when a CCG changes tack like this in such a short space of time – and there’s also the matter of how one cycle of IVF for 110 people ends up costing £2 million – that’s more than four times what it would be at most fertility clinics,
Infertility Network UK and the National Infertility Awareness Campaign have condemned the proposal – Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK and Co-chair of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) said: “The announcement by Vale of York CCG today to go back on their commitment to reinstate funding for fertility treatment is quite simply appalling. To raise the expectations of those patients in the area who need fertility treatment and then within one month smash their hopes is completely irresponsible.
We would like to see the figures they have used to justify their decision – suggesting that offering one cycle to patients would cost as much as £2million per year simply doesn’t add up if they are talking about treating 110 patients. Deferring the reinstatement of funding for another year will simply add to their cost pressures as they try to deal with the backlog. National guidance set by NICE recommends offering up to three cycles for those eligible, based on both cost as well as clinical effectiveness, and there is no reason for patients who have a clinical need for a treatment recommended by NICE to be targeted yet again by a CCG which has for many years consistently failed them.”