Usually when we hear about changes to fertility funding, it means one thing – cuts to services. In South Norfolk, however, local commissioners who cut all funding for fertility treatment two years ago have now reviewed their decision and will offer two cycles to women under 39 and one cycle to eligible women aged 40-42.
It’s great news to see such a positive step for fertility patients and will bring hope to people in other areas of the country where funding for fertility treatment has been reduced or removed.
You can read local media coverage of this development here
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 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.
So, South Norfolk has decided to cut all funding for fertility treatment from the new year. If you live in South Norfolk and have not been referred for treatment before January 1 2016, you will not be treated. For those fortunate enough to have been referred before this date, there will still be access to two cycles of IVF.
People who are undergoing treatment for cancer will currently still be able to access fertility treatment, as will those who have HIV, which is odd as the NICE guidance does not recommend IVF for most of those with HIV. However the CCG is also going to “review” these exceptions.
South Norfolk say that their decision to cut services follows an “extensive engagement exercise”, and that they considered the views of those for and against cutting the service. I wonder how heavily the petition to protest against this, reportedly signed by 21,000 people was weighed in this decision or the dismay felt by many of those who will no longer be able to access any help for their medical problems – all for what amounts to a very small saving.
You can read the full statement from South Norfolk CCG here. It will be very difficult for anyone unfortunate enough to live in this area when neighbouring CCGs are funding three or two cycles for those who need IVF.