Poll Of The Week: Couples to miss out on IVF to cut NHS costs?
PUBLISHED: 12:53 18 August 2017
Hundreds of couples will miss out on free IVF treatment on the NHS under cost-cutting proposals outlined by North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
It is working with neighbouring organisations in Bristol and South Gloucestershire to reduce the number of women eligible to receive one round of treatment which gives couples the chance of children.
Presently, women who are 39 years and 34 weeks old, or younger, are eligible for IVF, but the CCGs wish to restrict it to those aged 30-35.
Other proposals set out by the CCG include couples being prevented from an automatic free course of IVF if either ‘have any living children’ and if the prospective father, or female partner in a same-sex couple, is more than 52 years of age – the present limit is 54 years old.
The ideas have gone out for public consultation, ahead of the CCGs making a decision.
Pam Davies, who lives in Weston, benefitted from IVF treatment on the NHS and now has ‘perfect’ 17-month-old twins, Archie and Myles.
She is concerned the potential criteria is restrictive.
She said: “I understand the NHS must manage its pot of money. However, for it to be eligible to ladies who are 30-35 is quite a small window of opportunity.
“I was 32 I think when I fell pregnant and I was lucky I was self-employed but a lot have built up a career by then.”
Pam felt ready to start a family in her mid-20s and believes it would have been difficult to wait five years to qualify for IVF.
She also says women should not lose out on the chance to be a mother on the grounds their partner may have fathered before.
Pam added: “They could have no contact with that child or they may have grown up.”
North Somerset CCG says the proposal is not designed to reduce its budget, but to cut its overspend.
It says: “Clinical evidence shows that treatment between the ages of 30-35 offers the highest possible chances of success.
“Under the proposal, future fertility treatment will be focused on the age group where natural conception success rates have started to fall but fertility treatment still offers couples the best chance of having a baby.
“According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) about 94 out of every 100 women aged 35 who have regular unprotected sexual intercourse will get pregnant within three years of trying.
“Conception success rates reduce significantly for women after the age of 35. For example, among women aged 38, only 77 per cent will conceive within three years.
“This proposal would offer NHS-funded treatment to patients with the highest average chance of success.”
The CCGs estimate only half of the 400 couples who benefit every year, at a cost of £1.9million, will be eligible in future under the new guidelines. Anyone who fails to meet the criteria would be able successfully appeal in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
The CCG adds: “Patients who wish to access fertility treatment will continue to have the option to self-fund treatment or seek funding via the Individual Funding Request Panel.”
* To take part in the consultation, visit www.northsomersetccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/nhs-service-proposals/fertility-treatment-eligibility.