Is NHS funded IVF ‘coming home’ to Cambridgeshire?

Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic was the world’s first IVF clinic and previously treated NHS patients from across Cambridgeshire until NHS funding was halted in 2017. 

NHS funded IVF treatment is available in Hertfordshire, Luton, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex – but not in Cambridgeshire or Peterborough.  This postcode lottery is unfair and seven Cambridgeshire MPs have called on the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to reconsider its position and reinstate NHS funded IVF in Cambridgeshire.

A meeting of the CCG is to be held on 6th July 2021 and IVF is on the agenda – follow governing body meetings item 3 (strategy) 16.10 – 17.00 twitter @CambsPboroCCG 

Bourn Hall provides NHS fertility treatment including IVF across the east of England. Chief Executive Dr Mike Macnamee says the World Health Organisation formally recognises infertility as a disease meriting medical treatment.

virtual IVF consultation

He comments: “Infertility has a severe impact on mental health and can cause depression and relationship breakdown. Being unable to afford access to treatment causes psychological distress.

“Other CCGs across the country manage to fund a fertility service and the ‘right to try’ is so important. Even if people are not successful, they have the knowledge that they have done everything they could and can then move on with their lives.

“Without access to a fertility diagnosis and appropriate treatment, these people are left in limbo and this feeling of grief and loss can last a lifetime.”

The CCG last reviewed IVF funding in August 2019 and decided against reinstating funding on grounds of financial cost.

In Cambridgeshire about 150 patients a year would be eligible for NHS-funded IVF (this is the level of those funded in previous years) and Bourn Hall’s experience in Norfolk suggests that  improvements in the current fertility pathway could help off-set those costs.

A fully integrated fertility service, such as the one that Bourn Hall provides across Norfolk, would enable more people to become pregnant with minimal intervention and the opportunity for IVF for those that need it.

Devastating – impact of IVF cuts

The devastating impact of IVF cuts was revealed in a survey that was sent to 4,000 people who had responded to a petition organised during the original consultation process in 2017.

Interestingly, a third of those that answered did not require fertility treatment themselves but had a friend or loved one who did and had seen the impact of infertility.

The biggest impacts of withdrawing funding for those completing the survey were:

  • Severe impact on mental health – resulting in medication, depression, low self-worth, suicidal thoughts, hospital admissions, inability to work
  • Stress on relationships – isolation, withdrawal from friends and family, destroyed marriages
  • Devastating impact on lives – loss of meaning, financial stress
‘How has infertility affected you, your relationships and your health (or those of someone you care about)?’

Summary of responses: ‘How has infertility affected you, your relationships and your health (or those of someone you care about)?’

Improving patient experience

Currently over 50% of patients who completed the survey and were diagnosed with some form of infertility are left without resolution.

Fertility declines for both men and women as they age, particularly for women after the age of 35,  so it is important that people seek advice about infertility if they have been unsuccessful after two years of trying for a pregnancy.

A consultation with a Bourn Hall fertility nurse specialist is free of charge and this is an opportunity to review all aspects of your health and provide advice that can help you to get fertility fit or to answer questions that are concerning you.

In Norfolk, Bourn Hall provides Level 2 services (diagnosis and Ovulation Induction treatment) and through its expertise in fertility has helped 30% of the patients that it sees become pregnant – reducing the requirement for more invasive treatment.

“Improving the patient experience from GP referral through to resolution would improve patient outcomes. Even for those ultimately unsuccessful, it allows closure, the opportunity to explore other options and move on with their lives,” Dr Macnamee concludes.

“We see daily both the heartbreak caused by infertility as well as the joy when a much-wanted baby arrives after successful treatment. Funding for IVF treatment gives the message that infertility matters, and that help is available – the importance of this cannot be overstated.”

More information

Cambridge and Peterborough CCG – background to the story

Get advice -Bourn Hall offers a free consultation with the fertility nurse specialist that looks at all aspects of your health and can help you to get fertility fit or to answer questions that are concerning you.

Fertility testing of both partners is important to gain a sound diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.

Bourn Hall works with the financing company Access Fertility to offer payment plans that provide multi-cycle packages and/or refunds if the treatment is unsuccessful, and this can take some of the stress out of self-funding treatment.

Consider all the options – if you are under 35 and healthy then you may consider sharing eggs or sperm with another couple.

Share your feelings – the Fertility Support Group is open to everyone on a fertility journey – it meets by Zoom on the last Thursday of the month and is facilitated by an independent fertility counsellor.

40 years ago Professor Robert Edwards, one of the founders of Bourn Hall and a ‘father of IVF’, campaigned for NHS support for IVF.

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