The impact of withdrawing NHS funding for IVF

In August 2017 Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (C&PCCG) made the decision to remove funding for its Specialist Fertility Services, which includes IVF, Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) and donor insemination.

It agreed to review the decision in April 2019 and to consider feedback on the impact this decision has made.  The meeting was delayed and is now to be held on 6th August 2019.

Cambridgeshire people were asked to give feedback on the impact of infertility and the results of the survey are given below.

Cost of IVF

The final decision is likely to be made on cost, but further information gained through FOI requests showed only 150 patients would be eligible for NHS funded IVF (and this is the level of those funded in previous years) is much less than the 200 given in the recommendations to the CCG.  Additionally improvements in the current fertility pathway could off-set those costs.

A fully integrated fertility service 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

A survey was sent to 4,000 people who had responded to a petition organised during the original consultation process.

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 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)?’

cost of IVF survey reveals impact of infertility

The current situation of the 79 respondents to the survey from Cambridge and Peterborough who have had tests since 2017 or are still waiting for tests

Left in limbo without resolution 

Currently over 50% of patients diagnosed with some form of infertility are left without resolution.

Fertility declines for women after the age of 35 and also for men with age however the majority of people seek advice about infertility in their twenties.

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 and allow those unsuccessful to have closure, explore other options and move on with their lives.

Alternative ways to reduce cost of IVF

Bourn Hall has submitted a proposal to the C&PCCG of how improvements to the current pathway could off-set the cost of reinstating NHS funded IVF.

It is proposed that implementing a high quality integrated fertility pathway that provides tailored advice, rapid testing and a range of treatments would improve patient experiences and outcomes.

Even if the funding is reinstated only a few people are eligible for IVF funding.

Understand your options

To help consider your next steps Bourn Hall provides free fertility consultations for people at every stage of the fertility journey.

You will be invited to attend a 30-minute consultation with the Fertility Nurse Specialist  and their tailored advice will include ways to boost your natural fertility, recommendations for tests and explanation of what the results will tell you and discussion of the treatment options that may be relevant to you.

From this consultation, you will be in a stronger position to decide on your next steps. The advice will be appropriate to you and your circumstances. You don’t have to be trying to get pregnant or need fertility treatment to have a free consultation.

If you do require IVF treatment you can gain guidance on options such as reduced cost IVF treatment for egg and sperm sharers,  payment plans that provide multi-cycle packages and/or refunds if the treatment is unsuccessful.

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