IVF treatment on the NHS to return
- Credit: Archant
Cambridgeshire is to offer NHS-funded IVF for the first time since 2017.
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) Governing Body voted for it to be re-instated.
Cambridgeshire has been one of only three CCGs in the country not to offer NHS-funded IVF.
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG suspended funding for the treatment in 2017, arguing the decision was financially necessary owing to budget pressures.
The decision was reviewed in 2019 but the treatment was not reinstated.
The CCG says its financial position “has not improved” since the 2019 review.
But the report says “the growing inequality of provision has strengthened the argument to redress the inequality and reinstate provision of IVF services”.
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It adds “the growing inequalities of provision outweigh the relative effect on the CCG’s overall budget”.
The CCG estimates it would treat around 170 patients a year under the policy, at an annual cost of around £900,000.
But the report also estimates there are around 445 “built-up” patients from the years the treatment was suspended who are “likely” to seek treatment, at an additional cost of around £2.4 million.
The NHS in Cambridgeshire will fund one cycle comprising up to three transfers of embryos including one fresh transfer of embryo, and up to two frozen transfers of embryos, subject to the criteria being finalised in August.
The report says the CCG proposes an “enhanced offer, compared to some CCGs, by proposing one cycle of IVF which includes up to three transfers of embryos”.
The majority of CCGs offer one cycle of NHS-funded IVF including up to two transfers of embryos, it says.
In vitro fertilisation is a technique that fertilises an egg outside of the body and returns it to the womb to grow. It was pioneered in Cambridge in 1978.
The lack of NHS-funded IVF in Cambridgeshire has been strongly criticised by some residents and politicians in the area.
In November, all seven of Cambridgeshire’s MPs wrote a letter to Jan Thomas, the accountable officer for the CCG, calling for NHS-funded IVF to be reinstated in the county.
The CCG report says “the main reason for considering reinstatement is the growing inequality of provision between the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area and other areas”.
The rationale given for the original decision to suspend funding the treatment in 2017 was the CCG’s growing financial deficit.
The level of provision being proposed by the CCG now would offer the patient up to three NHS-funded chances of becoming pregnant and “is the most financially viable option given the CCG’s financial position”.
The report to the Governing Body cited evidence that the live-birth rate is approximately 23 per cent per embryo transferred.
It says: “The national direction is towards provision of NHS-funded IVF.
“There is a growing amount of media statements, correspondence and policy direction statements issued from government advocating NHS-funded IVF provision; given the growing inequalities of provision, the CCG believes that now is the right time to re-provide IVF services.”
The CCG, which is responsible for planning and commissioning NHS healthcare services in the area, said last month that it has a cumulative deficit of £133 million.
But it said that in 2020/21 it recorded an in-year surplus for the first time since 2018/19.
A CCG spokesperson said at the time: “The CCG reported a small surplus of £137,000 for 2020/21, this was in part due to a change in NHS funding to support the pandemic response.
“However, the CCG still has a cumulative deficit of £133 million and will continue to face significant financial challenges in the future.”
The CCG’s report on the decision of whether or not to reinstate IVF services for the Governing Body meeting on July 6 said that “given that the IVF budget is a very small percentage of the total CCG budget, the CCG, in supporting IVF reinstatement, has the intention that this would not significantly impact on increasing the CCG’s debt”.
CCG chairman Julian Huppert said it remained an 'in principle' decision pending the working out of details.