By: Daily Mail UK, Stephen Matthews
IVF treatment could be limited to just cancer patients and sufferers of HIV who have been left infertile if controversial new plans go ahead.
In light of the NHS financial crisis, Richmond CCG is proposing to change its policy on who will be able to undergo fertility treatment.
It has stated that it needs to make £13million in savings in the next financial year, with IVF being the first service to be getting slashed.
And it is now considering prohibiting infertile women from having children unless they have been affected by chemotherapy or chronic viruses.
But experts fear that if the plans do go ahead that other clinical commissioning groups (which control local health funding) across the country will follow suit and prevent many women from starting their dream family.
Some critics also argue that those who would be given access could face a reduced life expectancy, potentially leaving a child without parents growing up.
In light of the NHS financial crisis, Richmond CCG is proposing to change its policy on who will be able to undergo fertility treatment (pictured: one of the GP surgerys that it runs)
Consultant gynaecologist and fertility specialist Dr Luciano Nardo warned imposing such drastic new limits was ‘short-sighted’ and ‘devastating’ for any couples affected.
Dr Nardo, director of Cheshire’s Reproductive Health Group clinic, said: ‘I’m extremely surprised by this proposal from Richmond CCG.
‘And what really shocks me is that the group of patients identified for treatment are potentially the ones where life expectancy is a real issue due to their health issues, which brings into play all manner of questions about future child welfare.
‘The cuts have been deep and the situation has become a true postcode lottery. And it’s having a real impact on those looking to start a family.
‘Restricting IVF provision in the manner Richmond CCG are proposing is not only short-sighted, but it is devastating for those couples desperate to achieve their dreams of having a child.
‘Infertility is recognised as a disease and should be treated as such.’
If the plans do go ahead, IVF treatment will be limited to just cancer patients and sufferers of HIV and other such viruses that leave women infertile
Currently, IVF is only offered on the NHS if certain criteria are met. Patients who don’t are forced to pay for private treatment.
In 2013, NICE published new fertility guidelines about who should have access to the treatment in England and Wales.
However, individual CCGs make the final decision about who can access it in their local area, and their criteria may be stricter.
And now Richmond CCG, which is responsible for the funding of 28 GP practices in the Twickenham area, is proposing to change their policy on who can undergo fertility treatment.
In the new proposals, it has listed two options for the local community to choose between.
One of which means there will be no change to the existing guidelines, with women aged 39 or under who meet the criteria to continue to be offered the one fresh and one frozen cycle.
But the second option suggests only those rendered infertile from chemotherapy or chronic viral infections.
However, it says in exceptional circumstances it will consider individual funding requests made from GPs who think a particular patient is worthy.
It is also asking the community if there are any other specific circumstances they should consider.
Dr Graham Lewis, chairman of the CCG, said: ‘We are facing our toughest financial challenge yet.
‘There is not enough money for us to do everything we would like to for people living in the borough of Richmond.
‘We have to prioritise and make difficult decisions, including what level of IVF should continue to be funded, to secure the future of local NHS health services for everyone.
Experts fear that if the plans do go ahead that other funding groups will follow suit and prevent many women from starting their dream family
‘While we know that the number of people affected by a change in policy would be low we are also aware that infertility is an area of significant concern to those who are affected by it.
‘We need to make sure that we understand the views and needs of people who use IVF services so if you haven’t already done so, please read our consultation document and fill out our survey.’
This news comes just weeks after three health trusts were drastically tightening their rules in the hope of slashing operations by a fifth and saving £2million a year.
Patients will be denied hip or knee replacements unless their pain is so severe they cannot sleep through the night.
The proposals have been drawn up jointly by the Redditch and Bromsgrove, South Worcestershire, and Wyre Forest Clinical Commissioning Groups – three local health trusts in the West Midlands
While in November the NHS was ordered to consider bankrolling a controversial HIV people, meaning hundreds of people with rare diseases could miss out on vital treatments.
Toddlers with cystic fibrosis, deaf children and amputees may now be denied a range of new medical devices and breakthrough drugs.