Fertility Network UK have a number of media requests for people to talk about how the cuts to NHS fertility services that are happening across England are affecting them. They really need people who are willing to talk about it as the situation is only reported on when the media can give an insight into how this affects those who need treatment.
In particular, they are looking for people who are unable to access any NHS IVF services because they live in South Norfolk, mid-Essex or north-east Essex where funding has been cut completely. They also need people who live in areas where NHS IVF could be cut completely in the near future: Basildon & Brentwood, Bedfordshire, Ipswich and East Suffolk, and West Suffolk. Other areas where cuts have occurred include Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, North East Lincolnshire and Somerset.
ITV news have been looking for people affected by the postcode lottery anywhere in the UK. They are keen to speak to people who have moved house to try to access NHS treatment, who are going overseas because they can’t access NHS treatment or are embarking on treatment in the private sector because they can’t get NHS treatment.
This is your chance to have your voice heard. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07469-660845.
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.’
When news about fertility funding seems to focus on cuts and dwindling services here in England, the Scottish government has to be applauded – and loudly – for moving in the opposite direction, announcing plans today to fund three full cycles of IVF treatment for eligible couples. What’s more, couples will be eligible for the first time if one of them has a child from a previous relationship. The changes will be introduced gradually, but it’s still wonderful news that the Scottish government is able to offer such positive support to those with fertility problems.
Infertility Network UK’s Chief Executive Susan Seenan, who is also Co-Chair of Fertility Fairness, commented on the news saying, ‘Scotland continues to lead the way in providing equitable fertility treatment. The Scottish government brought in equity of provision in 2013 and is now committing to delivering the full clinically recommended 3 IVF cycles (for eligible women aged 40 and under). In addition, it is relaxing current access criteria and will offer fertility treatment to couples where one partner has no biological child. This increase in access to medical treatment is fantastic news for people in Scotland affected by fertility problems and we commend the Scottish Government for both recognising the importance of treating this medical condition and backing it up with action.”
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.
If you are affected by the postcode lottery for NHS-funded fertility services in England, then contacting your MP is one of the most important ways that you can help to lobby to save NHS-funded IVF.
The charity Infertility Network UK is launching a campaign to encourage fertility patients to write to their MPs to tell them how they are affected by the postcode lottery and what the rationing of fertility treatment means to them. The charity have prepared a draft letter or email which you can amend to include details of the impact your fertility problems have on your life. You can find the template for the letter or email at the bottom of this webpage and details of how to contact your MP here – you can just put in your postcode to find out who your MP is if you aren’t sure. You can also send a copy of your correspondence to Jane Ellison, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health at the Department of Health, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A 2NS.
Infertility Network UK and Fertility Fairness believe it is unacceptable that 83 per cent of England’s clinical commissioning groups ignore public health guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and do not provide three full cycles of NHS fertility treatment and hope to change that with your help.
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.
Access to NHS-funded fertility treatment in the UK is still a postcode lottery, and what you get depends entirely on where you live. What’s also becoming more apparent is that in some areas people are paying for additional tests and treatment when they are having NHS-funded IVF or ICSI, but this doesn’t happen everywhere.
Some fertility patients are paying for time-lapse imaging, for endometrial scratch or for embryo glue for example – and others are reporting being asked to cough up for tests before treatment such as AMH tests or even sperm freezing and storage.
Your experience of extras for NHS-funded IVF
The patient support charity Infertility Network UK is trying to build up a picture of what people are currently experiencing, so if you’ve paid for any additional tests or treatments on top of your NHS-funded IVF or ICSI, it would be really useful if you could let them know. All responses will be totally confidential, and you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have paid and are able to give a rough idea of how much you have paid this would be helpful, and they would also like to hear from you if you would have liked to pay for some extras but this was not permitted.
We’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.
I’ve posted about this before, but the rules in some areas about having an existing child from a previous relationship poses a real problem. Some couples discover that they can’t access NHS-funded fertility treatment because one of them has a child or children from a previous relationship. I think most people would find it reasonably fair if a couple who already had a child themselves didn’t qualify for funded treatment – but is it fair to include children from previous relationships?
Most often, these cases arise when a man has had a child in a previous relationship, and then can’t access treatment with a new partner. Often the child or children are in their teens or even young adults and have never lived with the couple in question. So a woman can’t get the fertility treatment she needs because her partner has had a child in the past. Is that really fair or right?
What makes it even more difficult is that this only applies in some parts of the country. Sharon, who has personal experience of this, has started a petition to try to change the situation in her local area – if you’d like to support her, you can find it here https://www.change.org/ If you’re interested in helping to end the postcode lottery for fertility treatment, you can find more information about lobbying your MP and local Healthwatch at Fertility Fairness
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.