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Trying to end postcode lottery for IVF patients in Cambridgeshire

Local people are being asked to add their voice to a new move to make IVF treatment free in our area to those struggling with infertility.

Bourn Hall are trying to have free IVF re-introduced in our area. (7518627)
Bourn Hall are trying to have free IVF re-introduced in our area. (7518627)

Unlike residents in Newmarket, Biggleswade or Saffron Walden – where one or more cycles of IVF treatment are available as part of the NHS fertility service – anyone with a GP in the Cambridge & Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) now has to pay for treatment, regardless of their income.

This postcode lottery is considered by many people to be very unfair.

Bourn Hall provides NHS treatment to patients across the rest of the region. It is the world’s first IVF clinic and has 40 years of expertise in providing fertility care. This knowledge means that it is also able to help patients to boost their natural fertility, and lead clinician Dr Thanos Papathanasiou is concerned that Cambridgeshire residents are not getting the advice they need.

He said: “We are concerned that by removing IVF as an NHS treatment option, patients in Cambridgeshire are now less likely to have their infertility fully investigated. This means that people who could benefit from other types of treatment such as medication or specialist fertility advice may not be receiving that support through the NHS.

“For example, we have been told by Cambridge University Hospitals that fifty per cent of the people referred for fertility testing on the NHS have been waiting more than three months for their first appointment. Fertility declines with age so every month is precious.”

“There is now an opportunity to review the way that the fertility service is delivered and to suggest improvements that would offer better outcomes to all patients by creating efficiencies rather than cutting funding.”

The decision to remove funding for IVF treatment is being reviewed by the CCG in May 2019. Campaigners believe that this is an opportunity to present information about the impact of the cuts.

The East and North Hertfordshire CCG has negotiated a competitive deal with its five IVF suppliers on behalf of the twelve CCGs that serve Herts, Cambs, Beds, Norfolk and Suffolk. Of these only the Cambs and Herts Valley CCGs provide no funding for IVF treatment.

It is estimated that only about 100 couples a year meet the NHS criteria for IVF so removing funding will have had a negligible impact on the CCG, which has a £1.15bn budget – one of the largest in the country.

The financial data presented to the commissioners during the public consultation in 2017 about the amount of saving possible was challenged by a number of parties and subsequently the CCG agreed it was flawed.

Bourn Hall has used its experience to design a survey to capture information about peoples’ fertility journeys. It plans to use this information to propose options that would improve patient outcomes without a significant cost.

The survey is to be shared with people that contributed to the 2017 petition and to others via social media.

Additionally, Bourn Hall is holding a Fertility Awareness Evening on 6th March 2019 where people can have an individual mini-consultation with a fertility nurse specialist to talk about their own fertility journey, the options for treatment and alternative ways to fund treatment.

The survey can be found at: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/CambsCCGBHC

Details of the Fertility Awareness Evening are on the Bourn Hall website: www.bournhall.co.uk/news-events

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