'Cruel and unfair' - county-wide block on IVF funding set to continue
PUBLISHED: 14:52 07 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:24 07 August 2019
Couples will be denied fertility services for the foreseeable future as health bosses grapple with a £75m deficit.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has refused to fund IVF treatment since 2017. It says during the last financial year, the move saved it £598,000 which could be spent on other services.
Now its governing body has agreed to continue the block. It said in a statement it will only review the decision again when it has achieved a financial surplus.
It comes weeks after health minister Jackie Doyle-Price wrote to CCGs to warn them it was "unacceptable" to cut IVF. She warned doing so created a postcode lottery.
Sarah Norcross, co-chair of campaign group Fertility Fairness and director of Progress Educational trust said: "Fertility patients in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will be devastated to hear that the clinical commissioning group has decided to remove access to NHS IVF permanently - despite the Government's warning that it is unacceptable to do so and that the IVF postcode lottery "blights patients' lives and damages the NHS' reputation".
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"In the last two and half years alone, one in five CCGs (21pc) have slashed services by cutting the number of IVF cycles they offer, decommissioning services or introducing arbitrary access criteria."
Gwenda Burns, head of charity Fertility Network, said: "This is a cruel, unfair decision. Infertility affects 3.5m people and has a far-reaching impact.
"It is appalling that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG is ignoring the devastation infertility wreaks and refusing to allow access to NHS treatment."
The CCG says its financial position has not improved since the original decision was made. It has proposed a raft of cuts to stem its £75m deficit including dial-a-ride, grants to charities and a brain injury rehabilitation centre.
Dr Gary Howsam, clinical chair of the group, said: "Clinicians and managers alike acknowledge that this was a difficult decision to make and would have an impact on individuals and their families, but that in the current financial climate, it was not reasonable to reinstate the service. The Governing Body has committed to reviewing the decision as and when the CCG is operating in a financial surplus position.
"Anyone with fertility problems can still go to their GP who can discuss the treatment options available to them."