Sustained disinvestment in NHS fertility services in England; the southeast hardest hit, says Fertility Fairness

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There is now a sustained move to disinvest in NHS fertility services in England said campaign group Fertility Fairness as Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning group (CCG) and West Suffolk CCG announced plans to cut NHS-funded IVF.

Sarah Norcross, co-chair of Fertility Fairness said: ‘What we are witnessing is a sustained disinvestment in NHS fertility services with the southeast hardest hit. In East Anglia, half of the 8 CCGs in the region are turning their backs on helping people diagnosed with infertility.’

‘Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and West Suffolk CCG currently offer 2 NHS-funded IVF cycles but both CCGs announced today they are consulting on cutting this to 1 cycle or stopping offering any treatment; just weeks ago Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG cut the number of IVF cycles it offers from 2 to 1 without consultation and at the end of last year South Norfolk CCG decommissioned its NHS fertility services.’

‘Elsewhere in the southeast, both Basildon and Brentwood CCG and Bedfordshire CCG are consulting with a view to decommissioning NHS-funded IVF, while Mid-Essex CCG and North-East Essex CCG have already stopped offering access to fertility treatment.’

Susan Seenan, co-chair of Fertility Fairness and chief executive of Infertility Network UK added: ‘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.’

 

ENDS

Notes for editors

Contact: Catherine Hill press officer Fertility Fairness and Infertility Network UK on 07469- 660845 catherinehill@infertilitynetworkuk.com

Infertility Network UK media volunteers are available on request.

  1. There is now a move towards sustained disinvestment in NHS fertility services in England. In September 2014, Mid-Essex CCG decommissioned its NHS fertility service, except in isolated, complex medical cases; North East Essex CCG followed suit in September 2015. South Norfolk CCG announced its decision to cut NHS fertility services completely on 24 November 2015. North East Lincolnshire CCG, Somerset CCG and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG all recently slashed NHS fertility services and now offer just one funded IVF cycle. Basildon & Brentwood and Bedfordshire CCG are consulting on decommissioning NHS IVF.
  1. NICE guidance recommends three cycles of IVF for women under 40 years and one cycle for some women aged 40-42. The latest data from Fertility Fairness shows that in England less than one in five (17 per cent) of CCGs offer three full cycles of NHS-funded IVF to eligible couples, as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence 2004 guideline (this represents a drop of 7 per cent since 2013).
England 0 Cycle Providers 1 Cycle Providers 2 Cycle Providers 3 Cycle Providers
2015 1% 58% 24% 17%
2014 1% 52% 29% 18%
2013 3% 49% 24% 24%

In Scotland, new legislation is being introduced enabling all health boards to fund three cycles for women under 40 and couples with children from previous relationships; in Wales, women under 40 are entitled to two cycles and in Northern Ireland women under 40 are offered one cycle.

  1. There is now a striking North-South divide between the levels of provision of NHS fertility treatment. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that it is both clinically and cost effective that all eligible couples should receive up to three full NHS-funded cycles of IVF or ICSI where women are aged under 40. However, just 17.2 per cent of England’s 209 CCGs follow this national guidance and provide access to three NHS- funded IVF cycles.

    Of the 36 clinical commissioning groups offering three NHS-funded IVF cycles, the vast majority – 78 per cent – are in the North; just eight regions in the South (22 per cent) follow NICE’s recommendation regarding NHS fertility treatment. All the areas that have decommissioned NHS fertility services, or are consulting on doing so, are in the South of England.

  1. Fertility Fairness is a multidisciplinary umbrella organisation representing the major patient and professional bodies working in the field of fertility. Fertility Fairness campaigns for fair and equitable access to NHS-funded fertility services in accordance with national recommendations issued by NICE. This includes the right of eligible couples to receive up to three full cycles of IVF treatment regardless of where they happen to live. The figures quoted above are from the third annual audit by Fertility Fairness of the provision of fertility services across England by CCGs using Freedom of Information requests. This is the most comprehensive data about fertility services to date.