Fertility campaigners have slammed the decision by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS CCG to cease all specialist fertility services.
The clinical commissioning group announced the decision at a meeting held on August 6 in which it was confirmed, following a review, it would continue with its current policy of offering no IVF provision for the foreseeable future.
The only exception will be cancer patients being offered cryopreservation, specialist endocrinology services and sperm washing for patients with HIV.
Leading fertility magazine IVF babble has condemned the decision with co-founder Tracey Bambrough saying the postcode lottery for people suffering with infertility has to end.
Tracey said: “This is a cruel and crushing blow for anyone who is suffering the devastation of infertility, not only in Cambridgeshire but all across the country. It sets a worrying precedent.
“We believe that IVF and fertility treatments should be fully accessible to anyone who is struggling to start a family due to infertility through the NHS. Which is the exact reason, in partnership with Fertility Network UK, we gathered more than 100,000 signatures in a petition to end inequality and unfairness when it comes to NHS fertility services.
“Scrapping IVF and fertility treatment should not be used as a way of saving money. We will be monitoring the situation closely and fully intend to continue lobbying the government to do more to ensure the NICE guidelines are adhered to.”
Senior management have blamed financial constraints for the decision and in a statement said its financial position had not improved since the original decision to suspend services was made in September 2017.
Dr Gary Howsam, clinical chairman of the CCG, said: "Clinicians and managers alike acknowledge that this was a difficult decision to make and would have an impact on individuals and their families, but that in the current financial climate, it was not reasonable to reinstate the service. The Governing Body has committed to reviewing the decision as and when the CCG is operating in a financial surplus position.
"Anyone with fertility problems can still go to their GP who can discuss the treatment options available to them. Couples can still be referred to hospital for further tests to investigate the cause of their infertility, and many of these causes can be successfully treated without the need to go on to have IVF."
The decision comes despite a warning from the Department of Health that CCGs must adhere to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines.
The guidelines recommend that CCGs should offer infertility sufferers three full IVF cycles, but as it is only a guideline CCGs do not have to enforce it.
In a leaked letter released last month, former health minister MP Jackie Doyle-Price, said: “I cannot emphasise enough that it is not acceptable for CCGs to offer no routine access to fertility services. All CCGs should move towards the full implementation of the NICE guideline recommendations. I urge you to grasp this opportunity to end the lottery of fertility treatment once and for all."
Gwenda Burns, acting co-chairwoman of Fertility Fairness and head of charity operations at Fertility Network UK, said: “This is a cruel, unfair decision: infertility affects 3.5 million people and has a far-reaching impact. Ninety percent of people are depressed and 42 per cent feel suicidal. It is appalling that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG is ignoring the devastation infertility wreaks and refusing to allow access to NHS treatment."
Currently 88 per cent of CCGs across the UK do not offer the recommended three cycles for women under the age of 40. Five CCGs do not offer any fertility treatment at all.
Tracey Bambrough from IVF babble, continued: “It is shocking that a person’s right to have a child can be taken away so easily – the psychological and emotional impact will be huge, and it is clear that NHS mental health services will be placed under even more pressure due to this reckless decision.”
Anyone suffering from infertility can access support, information and advice by visiting www.ivfbabble.com
"This is a cruel and crushing blow for anyone who is suffering the devastation of infertility, not only in Cambridgeshire but all across the country. It sets a worrying precedent."
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