The world’s first IVF clinic, Bourn Hall, has welcomed the decision today (6th July 2021) by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG to reinstate NHS-funded IVF in the county.
It was 40 years ago that Bourn Hall co-founder, Professor Robert Edwards, first appealed to the health authority to make treatment at the world’s first IVF clinic available to NHS patients.
He wrote “…for a considerable amount of patients the only hope (for a pregnancy) is to undergo fertilization in vitro and embryo transfer… we have a proven success rate which is superior to that obtained by other methods….
“…these patients have paid their contribution to the NHS and, now they want treatment, they are not being allowed to receive it. I cannot allow this situation to rest as it is, especially since, at long last you have been advised that it is professionally accepted that our approach offers the only hope of conception for some women… I cannot see any excuse for excluding one group of patients from the correct form of treatment.’
Now it looks like NHS-funded IVF treatment is coming home and once more it will be available to NHS patients from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, following a landmark decision today to reinstate funding for those who meet the strict eligibility criteria. The proposal is to fund one fresh cycle and up to two frozen embryo transfers, potentially giving patients three chances to achieve a pregnancy – subject to ratification next month.
Dr Mike Macnamee, Chief Executive of Bourn Hall, says the news will bring hope to many. He says: “All of us at Bourn Hall are delighted by the CCG’s decision and we look forward to welcoming NHS patients from Cambridgeshire back to our clinic.
“For the last four years the Cambridge clinic has been in the very strange position of being able to provide NHS IVF treatment to patients across the East of England – but not to those who live on our doorstep.”
Hannah Turner and her husband, from Cambridgeshire, had NHS-funded IVF treatment at Bourn Hall which worked first time. Their son Emmett was born in August 2016 – a year before Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG took the decision to cease funding.
“I would have been devastated if we hadn’t been able to have NHS-funded treatment,” she says. “It is absolutely heart-breaking for those who have not had that option over the last four years and I am so delighted that this is set to change.”
Funding was halted by the clinical commissioning group in 2017 against public opinion. This meant that Bourn Hall could treat NHS patients from Bedfordshire, Luton, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex – but not Cambridgeshire. The place where the IVF pioneers established a clinic following their success with the first ‘test-tube’ baby Louise Brown and trained the consultants who would set up their own clinics worldwide, making the treatment available to millions of people.
Dr Macnamee continues: “When you are experiencing infertility, your whole life can feel as though it is in limbo; being able to have treatment is so important. Even if people are not successful, they have the knowledge that they have done everything they could and can move on with their lives.”
Donna Young agrees; she and husband Chris from Cambridgeshire had NHS-funded IVF treatment at Bourn Hall in 2015 and she is now mum to Ronnie, aged five. Their IVF treatment also worked first time.
“We often look back on our journey with Bourn Hall and are still so thankful for their support and for having our treatment funded by the NHS,” she says. “Even offering one try on the NHS offers hope, we are proof of that. We had one try and were successful. This isn’t going to be the case for everyone but it can help people achieve their dream.”