British Fertility Society responds to IVF funding report

Figures released today (Monday 30 October 2017) by Fertility Fairness highlight the postcode lottery that exists for people seeking IVF treatment in the UK and the cuts to funding in most areas in recent years. Almost all the local clinical commissioning groups in the UK now fail to comply with NICE recommendations and some are not funding IVF at all.

Professor Adam Balen, British Fertility Society Chairperson and member of the Fertility Fairness Steering Committee said “As a clinician, I am dismayed to see these figures. This is yet more evidence of a worrying trend where NHS funding available for IVF is being severely eroded, thanks to the decisions made by CCGs. I meet people every day who are desperate to become parents and for them IVF is the only option. Many patients will not be able to self-fund and nor should they; we have an NHS for a reason and that is to underpin the wellbeing of the UK.

“Infertility is a real disease, recognised as such by the WHO, that requires treatment because of the direct and indirect burden of ill health on the NHS and wider society; we simply must be able to offer effective treatments and for some patients that means three full cycles of IVF.

“61% of CCGs say they are offering one cycle when in fact more than half of those are actually offering only a partial cycle – an important distinction that Fertility Fairness have pushed them on for this report. They have also shown that some CCGs are applying additional restrictions such as childlessness or age that are not recommended by NICE. That leaves us with just a handful of CCGs that are properly funding IVF and we now have seven CCGs across the UK who aren’t funding it at all! That’s a postcode lottery by any other name and is vastly unfair.

“We know that there are problems with CCGs – the King’s Fund reported in 2016 that engagement between CCGs and GPs was poor. This is particularly disappointing given that the whole point of CCGs was to enable local decision making on the basis of local needs, as well as empowering health providers to effectively treat the conditions and diseases they are presented with in the clinic. Instead, they have come up with blanket policies that specifically disadvantage patients experiencing infertility. It is going to be important to get to the bottom of this and ask: is it funding, competing health issues, or just poor management that has led to this unconscionable situation?”