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Number of CCGs offering recommended cycles of IVF drops 50% in 4 years

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30 October 2017

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The number of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) delivering the recommended number of IVF cycles has halved over the past four years, leaving infertile couples and individuals facing postcode lottery.

A Fertility Fairness’ Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that only 25 CCGs deliver the three recommended NHS IVF cycles to eligible women under 40.

Too little investment

The number of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) delivering the recommended number of IVF cycles has halved over the past four years, leaving infertile couples and individuals facing postcode lottery.

A Fertility Fairness’ Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed that only 25 CCGs deliver the three recommended NHS IVF cycles to eligible women under 40.

Too little investment

As winter looms ahead, more cuts could hit the NHS and reduce this number further, with 14 CCGs currently planning to remove or reduce their IVF service.

Sarah Norcross, Fertility Fairness co-chair, said: ‘The scale of disinvestment in NHS fertility services is at its worst since National Institute for Health and Clinical Experience (NICE) introduced national fertility guidelines in 2004.’

The NICE guideline states that three full cycles of IVF should be offered to women aged under 40 and one cycle to woman aged 40-42, if they have been trying to get pregnant for two years or have had 12 cycles of artificial insemination, among other criteria.

But many CCGs revealed using ‘alternative ways to reduce provisions’ and save money, with some even refusing to deliver the national service to women aged over 35.

Outstanding costs

In England, one in six couples deals with infertility. For those who are not eligible for free IVF cycles, one cycle of treatment can cost more than £5,000.

‘Fertility Fairness is calling for full implementation of the NICE guidelines, standardisation of eligibility criteria across England and the development of a national tariff in England for tertiary fertility services – eliminating regional cost variants and removing a key barrier to CCGs’ compliance with national guidelines,’ said Ms Norcross.

The data also disclosed the ‘best and worst places’ in England to get an IVF treatment, the top four providers being Bury, Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale, Tameside and Glossop, and Oldham CCGs, which saw the first IVF-born baby.

The release of the figures coincide with the start of National Fertility Awareness Week, 30 October, which aims to break taboos around infertility and help individuals with fertility issues. 

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