In May 2019 the Cambridge & Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will reconsider the decision it made in 2017 to remove all NHS funding for IVF. Stuart Tuckwood and Ellie Crane who launched a petition in 2017 to prevent the cuts are now asking the 4,000 people who signed the original petition to give their feedback on the impact of the cuts by completing a survey.
Stuart comments: “We now have an opportunity to make the commissioners aware of the impact their decision has had.
“We are hopeful that we can convince them to reinstate funding. Recently South Norfolk CCG reintroduced NHS funding for two cycles of IVF treatment in their area, removing the postcode lottery in Norfolk, and we would like to see a similar move here.”
IVF funding was life changing
Ellie Crane says the NHS funding that enabled her to have a daughter was ‘life changing’.
She remembers: “Like any couple, we were happy and excited but also a little scared at the prospect of starting a family. However, each month brought disappointment and we started worrying that there might be a problem. A second year passed. I quit my job, unable to cope with the stress of working on top of this anxiety. Finally, after what seemed like endless tests and consultations, we were told that IVF was our best option and were referred for treatment on the NHS.
At that point Cambridgeshire NHS offered two rounds of IVF, but while we were waiting for the paperwork to be processed this was cut to one round; we missed the deadline by days.” Fortunately Ellie’s story has a happy conclusion.
“Thanks to the wonderful skill and knowledge of the staff at Bourn Hall – and a little bit of luck! – our one shot paid off and IVF worked first time. However, there are hundreds of couples out there who are still on this journey and for whom the future is uncertain.”
Only two out of twelve CCGs provide no funding
North Herts CCG has negotiated a competitive deal with its five IVF providers on behalf of the twelve CCGs that serve Herts, Cambs, Beds, Norfolk and Suffolk. From these counties only two CCGs provide no NHS funding for IVF treatment – Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and Herts Valley.
It is estimated that only about 100 couples a year meet the NHS criteria for IVF in Cambridgeshire so removing funding will have had a negligible impact on the CCG finances, 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.
Healthwatch speaks out
Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough was one of the organisations that challenged the decision. It says in a press statement: “At the time, we said the cuts were against national guidance, would affect people on low incomes the most and may not save the planned £700,000 per annum from local NHS budgets.
“The decision was taken after a 20 week consultation over the summer of 2017 which more than 1,300 people responded to. People were overwhelmingly in favour of keeping access to IVF on the NHS. 82% of people rejected the proposals to suspend the service. The CCG also received a petition with 2,278 signatures.
“We were also concerned about the impact the cuts could have on people with fertility problems in Cambridgeshire.
“Fertility Network UK, a charity that supports anyone affected by fertility issues, told us that in a 2018 survey 90% of people told them that infertility feels like a trauma.
“They said that 94% say they don’t think their friends, family or colleagues really understand what they are going through in their journey to have a baby. They also found that over a third of the people who responded had put themselves in financial jeopardy in order to have a baby.”
Give your feedback on the impact of the cuts
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.