Herts Valleys CCG suspends NHS IVF provision
Many of you living in the Hertfordshire area will be aware by now that Herts Valleys CCG held a public consultation over the Summer period regarding the provision of NHS funding of IVF treatments. You can read my original blog post about the consultation here.
Despite the feedback received in the consultation period, Herts Valleys CCG announced on 12th October that it would be suspending funding of NHS IVF in light of the CCG's financial position. You can read the official decision announcement here. This has been hugely disappointing news to patients and health providers alike. In particular this will be difficult news to those who have just missed out on NHS referral for treatment.
Thank you for your feedback and support.
The CCG’s consultation period attracted a great deal of public feedback pushing for continued funding of at least one cycle of IVF. With the support of other acupuncturist, local healthcare professionals and input from my patients, I wrote a letter to Sir Mike Penning and the CCG consultation group. My intention was to provide evidence based feedback which prioritised public health and balanced the needs of patients with NHS cost pressures. The letter included the following points:
- NICE have published guidance advising that three cycles should be offered to eligible women.
- Withdrawing support to couples could see an increase in demand on mental health services. This appears to directly contradict the pledges made to provide provide additional support to those affected by mental health.
- The high cost of privately-funded IVF treatment in the UK would encourage couples to seek treatment abroad. This is less costly, but also less regulated which could see a rise in multiple pregnancies. This causes increased risk to both women and their babies and additional costs in maternal and neonatal services to the CCG that outweigh the cost of IVF-provision.
I want to thank all of the local acupuncturists and health practitioners that provided their input and signatures in our feedback. I also want to thank the Rt Hon Sir Mike Penning (MP for Hemel Hempstead) and Philip Dunne (MP and minister of state at the department of health) for their support in escalating the feedback.
What happens next?
Although the CCG has announced their decision to withdraw NHS funding of IVF treatments, they will be reviewing this decision in 12 months' time. The financial position and priorities of the NHS may allow a more favourable decision to be made. It remains important that we continue to work with our MP's and the CCG to encourage a decision that is in the interest of the public.
I'll be sure to keep you updated on any announcements made by the CCG's in the meantime.
What CAN I Do Now?
If you have been affected by these recent decisions by Herts Valleys CCG and are now looking for privately-funded IVF treatments there are a number of steps that you can take to help make the journey a little smoother. Here are three pointers that you may find helpful.
1. Do your research
Visit the HFEA website (https://www.hfea.gov.uk/) for free and unbiased information regarding the fertility clinics in your area and their latest statistics, and to find out more about IVF and the different variations that may be relevant to you. Whilst statistics will play a part in figuring out the possible success rate for you, it is also helpful to find out about other aspects of the clinic such as when appointments are likely to take place and whether the clinic is able to carry out egg collection or embryo transfer over the weekends as well as weekdays. Forums like Fertility Friend (http://www.fertilityfriends.co.uk/) and Netmums (https://www.netmums.com/) can also be helpful to read about other people’s experiences of undergoing treatment at a particular clinic.
2. Make use of free IVF clinic open evenings.
Many clinics now offer free open evenings or 1-2-1 meetings with a representative of the clinic. These can be useful session for you to find out more about the clinic. Take the opportunity to meet some of the staff and ask further questions about the way the process works.
3. Ask your GP about blood tests
You may still be eligible to undergo a number of blood tests and investigations with the NHS to evaluate your fertility potential and to see if there are any conditions that may be the reason why you’re finding it difficult to fall pregnant. These tests will be the same pre-treatment investigations that your private clinic will carry out and can save you up to £1000 in initial costs prior to IVF or ICSI itself. HFEA requires clinics to ensure that your pre-investigation test results are within three months of your first egg collection procedure. Doing your research in advance will mean that you can book in your private consultation soon after your tests results are out and will allow you to save some money upfront.