Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has criticised plans to reduce fertility services locally.
The proposed funding cuts are against national guidance, will affect poor people the most and may not save the planned £700,000 from local NHS budgets, says the watchdog.
Saving money is the sole aim of the proposal by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning group who are under significant financial pressures.
The CCG wants to stop paying for in-vitro-fertilisation (IVF) treatments, other than for patients undergoing cancer treatment and men who have a chronic viral infection (primarily HIV) and whose female partner does not. They have promised to review the decision in 2019.
Their recent consultation on this issue closed on July 31 and the CCG’s governing body were due to consider the decision at their meeting on Tuesday (5).
Val Moore, chairman, said: “Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough recognises the significant financial pressures that the CCG is facing and the need to make difficult decisions about future health services.
“However, there was lost opportunity to have a broader conversation about the values underpinning cost-cutting. People will be concerned about what treatment or service may be considered for cuts next.
“The CCG’s proposal does not follow the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance on fertility treatments. This recommends that women under 40 years receive three full cycles of IVF, and women aged 40-42 receive one cycle.’
Sandie Smith, chief executive (Designate), said: “The proposed cuts will have a significant impact on the small number of people who will be affected, particularly those who cannot afford to pay for private treatment.
“There are also worries that this will affect these individuals’ mental health. A survey from Fertility Network UK last year, showed that 90% of people affected by infertility admitted to feelings of depression and 42 per cent of even feeling suicidal.
“The CCG may not save as much money as they think and costs to the local NHS may even increase, as patients are likely to go for IVF treatment overseas. This is more likely to result in multiple births which will cost the NHS more.”
A public meeting of the CCG’s governing body will be held on Tuesday, September 5 at 3.30pm at the Future Business Centre Peterborough, Peterborough United Football Club, London Road, Peterborough, PE2 8AN.