When we hear about cuts to funding for fertility treatment, it’s often presented as yet another Clinical Commissioning Group deciding to reduce what they offer to couples with fertility problems. We hear about the statistics for the tiny number of areas in England where IVF is offered in the way that NICE considers both clinically and cost effective. We hear that in certain parts of the country, commissioners are rationing IVF by making random decisions about who is eligible which have nothing to do with how likely the treatment is to work. We hear about the postcode lottery and how unfair this is within a health service that is meant to be national.
Adam Kay’s article lays bear the reality of fertility funding cuts as experienced by the patients he saw – the woman who attempted suicide after learning she wasn’t eligible for IVF when she would have been if she lived just five miles away, the grief couples experience when they learn that they won’t be able to access any treatment for their medical condition. Adam Kay talks about this from the perspective of a professional delivering the news, and that makes this so compelling. It’s such an important point of view and really helps to explain why those who dismiss fertility treatment as a “lifestyle choice” have got it so very wrong.
Thanks to Adam Kay for speaking out to support fertility patients across the UK – and let’s hope for more professionals talking honestly about the impact of funding cuts in their clinics, and what it means to them and to their patients. This really can make so much difference. It’s easy to dismiss statistics about cuts to fertility funding and to ignore concerns about a postcode lottery. It’s not so easy to dismiss the way this affects the lives of real people.
Patient Charity Fertility Network has reached 100,000 signatures on the #Scream4IVF petition calling for fair access to NHS fertility treatment and an end to the IVF postcode lottery. Petitions which reach 100,000 signatures prove the public demand for a debate in Parliament. The #Scream4IVF campaign, with partners Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, was launched less than three months ago on 6 September 2018.
Commenting on #Scream4IVF’s success, Fertility Network’s chief executive Aileen Feeney said: ‘Gathering 100,000 signatures, in such a short space of time, demonstrates the overwhelming public support to end the unethical and unfair IVF postcode lottery and create an equitable system for access to NHS fertility services in the UK. These 100,000 signatures represent the screams of pain and frustration from not being able to have a child without medical help – and not having your screams heard. The screams of childbirth are loud, but the screams of infertility are just as loud and today they are finally being heard. In the face of this overwhelming public pressure, Fertility Network calls urgently on the Government to debate in Westminster the issue of fair access to NHS fertility treatment. Thank you, too, to the incredible women and men who have shared their #Scream4IVF and made their infertility voices heard. We are stronger together.’
Steve McCabe MP (Birmingham Selly Oak) said: ‘I am thrilled so many people are joining our campaign to end the postcode lottery of access to IVF. Infertility is a medical condition and it is time we started treating it like one. It is simply unfair that access to IVF is down to where you live and not your medical need. In the New Year my Access to Fertility Services Ten Minute Rule bill is due to have its Second Reading in Parliament. This is the first small step to ending this disgraceful postcode lottery.’
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said: ‘People struggling with infertility can all too often face damaging mental health issues. It is wrong that there is so little support. 100,000 backing this campaign shows the strength of feeling behind the call for change. Liberal Democrats are listening and Ministers in Whitehall must listen too.’
Congratulations to all at Fertility Network UK on this huge success, particularly Chief Executive Aileen Feeney and London Regional Organiser Anya Sizer!
I am sure you will all be aware of Fertility Network UK’s Scream4IVF campaign, aimed at ending the postcode lottery for IVF treatment. If you haven’t signed the petition yet which calls for a parliamentary debate on the subject you can do so here. The charity has been asking people to donate their scream on social media to give a voice to people with fertility problems and allow their frustrations to be aired. The screams will be collated to form the world’s longest scream for IVF to be played at a rally outside Westminster. The charity is encouraging people to join them at at the rally which takes place at Richmond Terrace at Westminster on October 10th from 5pm to 7pm.
The patient charity Fertility Network UK has launched a new campaign today called Scream 4 IVF which aims to raise awareness of the unfairness of the postcode lottery for fertility treatment. Currently a majority of those who need fertility treatment end up paying for themselves, and local commissioners who decide how to spend NHS funds are often ignoring the guidance from NICE on this and rationing fertility treatment.
The new campaign asks you to upload yourself screaming on social media with the #Scream4IVF and link to the petition bit.ly/Scream4IVF to call for a debate in parliament on fertility funding. Of course, you also need to sign it yourself!
Please, do support this important work – if you don’t want to scream, just sign – whatever you can do will help. You can find the campaign website at https://www.scream4ivf.org
The latest figures released by Fertility Fairness earlier this week about funding for IVF treatment have been described as “shocking” by the President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Lesley Regan.
Commenting on the fact that so few clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are currently following national guidance and that the number which have completely removed NHS IVF has almost doubled in the last year, Professor Regan said “These figures are shocking and it’s very disappointing to see even fewer CCGs following NICE guidance and providing full access to NHS fertility treatment. Current access to treatment is a postcode lottery and these health inequalities people face are unacceptable. Infertility can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, causing distress, depression, and the breakdown of relationships. IVF treatment is cost-effective and should be available on the NHS. The RCOG is committed to working with UK commissioners and healthcare providers to support them in following NICE Fertility Guidelines.”
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,
Fertility services in Lancashire are under threat with all eight Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups(CCGs) proposing cuts to NHS-funded IVF. They have a survey which you can complete to make your feelings known about this – it needs to be done by tomorrow, October 14 – http://tinyurl.com/Assisted-Conception-Services
You may also want to write to your MP, as this may help to ensure the CCGs realise that the guidance from NICE which they should be following is both clinically effective and cost effective. Fertility Network UK have a draft email you can use, and if you wish you can add details of your own personal situation which will help to explain to your MP why this is so important – if you are able to help them see how your fertility problems make a difference to you emotionally, financially and socially this will really help. You can find the draft letter which you may wish to email, half way down this webpage http://infertilitynetworkuk.com/nhs_funding_2
The MPs for the areas covered by the eight Lancashire CCGs are: NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG:
Kate Hollern MP
Jake Berry MP
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org NHS Blackpool CCG:
Paul Maynard MP
Gordon Marsden MP
Email: email@example.com NHS Chorley and South Ribble CCG:
Lindsay Hoyle MP
Seema Kennedy MP
Nigel Evans MP
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org NHS East Lancashire CCG:
Andrew Stephenson MP
Julie Cooper MP
Graham Jones MP
Email: email@example.com NHS Fylde & Wyre CCG:
Paul Maynard MP
Cat Smith MP
Ben Wallace MP
Mark Menzies MP
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org NHS Greater Preston CCG:
Mark Hendrick MP
Seema Kennedy MP
Ben Wallace MP
Nigel Evans MP
Email: email@example.com NHS Lancashire North CCG:
Cat Smith MP
Ben Wallace MP
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org NHS West Lancashire CCG:
Rosie Cooper MP
Seema Kennedy MP
Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning group (CCG) and West Suffolk CCG have announced they are consulting on cutting the number of NHS-funded IVF cycles they offer from two cycles. They will either cut to one cycle or stop offering any treatment at all. The CCGs have asked for people to comment on these proposals before 5 September by filling in a feedback form on their website here .
If you live in the area, don’t forget that you can also write to your local MP about the proposals. The local MPS are:
Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP West Suffolk Matthew@matthewhancock.co.uk
Mr James Cartlidge MP South Suffolk email@example.com
Jo Churchill MP Bury St Edmunds firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Daniel Poulter MP Central Suffolk and North Ipswich email@example.com
Rt Hon Ben Gummer MP Ipswich firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Therese Coffey MP Suffolk Coastal email@example.com
Susan Seenan, co-chair of Fertility Fairness and chief executive of Infertility Network UK said of the proposals; ‘Why is it increasingly deemed acceptable to remove access to NHS treatment for people with fertility problems? Infertility is defined as a disease and is as deserving of NHS treatment as any other medical condition. To ignore the plight of the approximately 3.5 million people in the UK who are unable to have children without medical help is cruel and unethical.’
More cuts to fertility treatment – this time in Cambridgeshire where commissioners have decided to cut funding for IVF to just one cycle. NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends three full cycles of IVF treatment and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG had only been offering two before this decision but will now reduce that to just one.
Susan Seenan, who is Co-Chair of Fertility Fairness and Chief Executive of the patient support charity Infertility Network UK said that they had not been aware of any tpublic consultation before the commissioners took the decision to cut funding.
Apparently anyone who had already been referred for treatment will not be affected by these changes which will cause huge distress and disappointment to many people who are experiencing fertility problems in the area.
I was glad to see that the fact that waiting times for NHS treatment in Wales can lag behind those in England has been highlighted in the news today. The news focused on care for certain key conditions, with the biggest difference for hip operations where patients in Wales wait an average of four months longer than those in England. The research also found longer waits for stomach operations and getting diagnosed for pneumonia, with differences in some other areas too.
One of the biggest differences in waiting times not highlighted in this report is for IVF where fertility patients are often having to wait considerably longer than they would do in the rest of the UK. It is far from uncommon to be waiting for a year for fertility treatment in Wales, and this inequality of access is yet another strand of the postcode lottery for IVF in the UK – where you live really does have a huge impact on not only how long you wait, but also how much treatment you can access and what kind of eligibility criteria apply.