R.I.P IVF on the NHS

Couples struggling to have children are increasingly likely to be denied NHS-funded fertility treatment, with several Clinical Commissioning Groups preparing to halt or restrict offering IVF because of financial concerns. Article from the Independent - read here.

Stephen Harbottle, consultant embryologist here at Cambridge IVF gave an interview on BBC Radio Cambridge on Monday 02 November.

The interview

''What's the situation here in Cambridge? How easy is it to get IVF on the NHS if you struggle to get pregnant on your own?''

''Well there is a set of criteria, what we call the 'NHS criteria' and if you meet those criteria, you're then eligible for that treatment. So there are certain caveats, for example people should be non-smokers and they need to make sure that they're living and healthy lifestyle and have their weight under control. If you're under 40 years of age and that's the woman's age that's important then at the moment people are eligible for two cycles of IVF treatment, and if you're aged 40 to 42 then you're eligible for one cycle of IVF treatment.''

''And that's the free cycles?''

''That's the free cycles on the NHS at the moment.''

''Ok, and why is that in some parts of the country are going to stop giving healthy couples NHS funded IVF?''

''Well, I think the most obvious answer to that Dotty is its financial. The NHS is under a lot of pressure and they're looking at IVF as something that they don't as necessary and they're making cost savings by withdrawing that treatment. 
If we look back to the previous NHS IVF contract in East of England, East of England was always regarded as a showcase example of how IVF should be funded because they used to fund and support the three cycles of NHS care that NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) said should be given to all patients. In the most recent contract that was reduced to two, and now what we're seeing is the Care Commissioning Group (CCG) that signed up to that contract, now either withdrawing from that or entering into a consultation to withdraw from that, and the reality of that of course is that that care will be removed for those healthy people that should be eligible for that treatment.''

''And having spoken to you before Stephen, I know that you're of the view that is quite important for people who can't have children to be able to have this NHS option. Why do you think that?''

''I still support that whole-heartedly Dotty. I mean as you know we spoke previously we were trying to lobby the government to make them aware of the postcode lottery. This chain of events is only going to make that much, much worse.
What we've got to remember in all of this is that infertility is categorised as a disease by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in so much as any other disease that you might attend hospital for treatment for.
If you can imagine for a moment putting yourself into the shoes of an infertile couple who maybe in their mid 30's who have been trying to have a baby for 7 or 8 years unsuccessfully, the emotional strain that that puts not only on their relationship but also on their mental health and also their position within their peers, within their group of friends if they're the only childless couple, this can have an enormous burden on that couple, which can end in the break-up of that relationship and ending up in people otherwise healthy, happy people having very difficult periods in their lives and requiring other treatment that could of course end up costing the NHS more than simply giving them the treatment that they need to help them get over the infertility and have a baby.''

''Well Stephen thank you for coming on the show this morning, it's good to talk to you.'' 

Listen to the whole interview by visiting BBC Radio Cambridgeshire (please note this interview is only available for 30 days after airing). Interview begins at 02:50:15.