IVF funding cuts worry campaigners

December 13th, 2010
IVF funding cuts worry campaigners

Plans by no less than ten Primary Care Trusts in England to cut or even suspend the financial support for infertility services has worried supporters of the treatment such as the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC).

The reason given the the NHS is “affordability”, yet the government has insisted that any spending cuts in the NHS will not be to front-line services, such as healthcare and treatments such as IVF.

Under the Labour Party, the idea of infertility treatment as a service that is essential to the health and well being of parents was supported fully, and the Health Minister in 2000, Alan Milburn, even took steps to improve access to IVF treatment and to make it easier and more affordable.

Recommendations from National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the body that decides which treatments and medications should be provided by the NHS, say that couples should be offered three cycles of IVF free, and that if these are unsuccessful they must then pursue the treatment themselves privately. However, if plans to cut spending on infertility treatment go ahead, some couples may be denied any cycles at all, while others would have the number of cycles they can access for free cut to one or two.

The current Health Minister Andrew Lansley appeared to support this policy in a statement he made in September; ‘From my point of view, I have long said that the NHS has a responsibility to provide fertility services,’ he said ‘If, for example, a couple have investigations into reasons for infertility, and often significant resources go into that, it is then absurd not to give them appropriate access to IVF in order to try then for them to have a baby’

According to Claire Lewis-Jones the Chief Executive of the Infertility Network UK & More to Life, the government needs to make sure that their policy on infertility spending is being applied by PCTs and not ignored.

“At the national level, the Government needs to ensure the health minister’s message that it expects these services to be funded is communicated strongly to all PCTs,” she said. “Locally, PCTs need to ensure the views of fertility patients and clinicians are heard and there is full consultation with them on any proposals to change services. They should also be reminded of the NICE guideline and current guidance on making progress towards implementing it.”

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