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Medway CCG could reduce number of IVF cycles offered to couples

By Amy Nickalls

The number of IVF cycles offered to couples could be reduced to just one.

For those people who meet the criteria for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) with or without intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) on the NHS, Medway CCG currently offers a maximum of four embryo transfers including no more than two transfers from fresh cycles.

The proposal is to reduce this to a maximum of two embryo transfers; one using a fresh embryo and one using a frozen embryo collected as part of the same cycle.

Last year, Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, which plan and buy local NHS services, spent around £226,000 on In Vitro Fertilisation and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injections.

Couples in Medway can currently have two rounds of IVF on the NHS
Couples in Medway can currently have two rounds of IVF on the NHS

Of this amount, £171,000 was spent on first cycles and £55,000 on second cycles.

The recommended number of cycles the NHS should offer, according to guidelines set out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, is three for women under 40 who have not been able to get pregnant after two years of trying.

Dr Satvinder Lall, elected member for the governing body, said: “There is a growing gap in Kent and Medway between the money available to pay for NHS care and the costs the NHS faces.

“At Medway CCG we have to balance the need for different types of treatment against the benefits they give, which can require some difficult decisions.

“We have already looked at several ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency, but we need to do more to free up enough money for essentials such as urgent emergency care and cancer treatment.

“This is why we are now considering changes to spending on fertility treatment.”

£226,000 was spent on IVF treatment last year. Credit: Scott Vickers
£226,000 was spent on IVF treatment last year. Credit: Scott Vickers

To be eligible for NHS funded fertility treatment, Medway patients must fulfil a number of criteria, including the woman’s age, previous cycles undertaken and if they have any children.

Aileen Feeney, chief executive of leading patient charity Fertility Network UK, said: "Fertility patients in Medway will be very distressed to hear this news. Its proposal to cut services and provide just one partial IVF cycle will only add to patients’ suffering.

"Fertility struggles put an enormous strain on a person’s mental health: 90% feel depressed; 42% suicidal, relationships and work can be affected. We urge patients to take action now against these plans and voice your concerns at the upcoming local meetings and via the online survey."

Ms Feeney added: "Access to fertility treatment should be dependent on your medical need and not your postcode or pay packet. The UK pioneered IVF 40 years ago but that achievement literally means nothing if only those who can afford to pay for fertility treatment benefit from it.

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"We ask Medway CCG to consider that disinvestment in NHS fertility services is a short sighted and false economy: fertility problems can have a serious and lasting impact on mental health causing chronic health issues requiring lifelong treatment.

"Removing access to NHS fertility services also drives patients overseas for treatment, where a lack of regulation increases multiple pregnancy rates with their associated long term financial costs for the NHS. All these costs could be saved if national health guidelines were followed and couples could access three full NHS IVF cycles wherever they live.’

Medway residents are asked to share their views in an online survey which will run until June 22.

There is also an opportunity to hear about to hear about proposals at a public meeting at Priestfield Stadium on June 13 from 6.30-8.30pm.

Visit https://medway-fertility-services.eventbrite.co.uk to register for a place and the CCG website for more information.

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