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Prospective same-sex parents face hurdles as NHS fertility treatments set to be axed

Nick Duffy January 16, 2017

Same-sex couples hoping to conceive in some parts of England may soon face financial hurdles, as a string of struggling local NHS authorities prepare to axe provisions for free fertility treatments.

At present, artificial insemination and IVF is available on the NHS to couples who have trouble conceiving naturally, with insemination procedures often relied on by women in same-sex relationships in order to have children.

However, struggling healthcare authorities across England are currently considering axing funding for fertility treatments, as they attempt to make drastic cuts to their budgets in line with savings targets.

The NHS Richmond Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is one of those consulting on plans to cut funding for IVF. The CCG currently offers one cycle of IVF to couples who meet the criteria, but it is planning to drop routine provision of IVF and specialised fertility treatment in order to make savings of £450,000, as it struggles to meet a required £10.9 million of cuts in the next financial year.

The plans say: “We are proposing that we go further and significantly increase the thresholds for IVF and specialised fertility services which could mean IVF and specialised fertility treatment is
available only for people with infertility as a result of cancer treatment or to prevent transmission of chronic viral infection. [It could mean] IVF and specialised fertility treatment is no
longer commissioned.”

The CCG in Croydon is also consulting on cuts to IVF provisions as it struggles to meet a required £30 million in savings.

Dr Tony Brzezicki, Clinical Chair of Croydon CCG, said: “Croydon CCG is facing our toughest financial challenge yet. We need to spend the money we have wisely as there isn’t enough money to keep funding everything we fund now.

“We need to focus our limited resources where we can have the biggest impact on people’s health and well-being. We are proposing to stop the routine funding of IVF.

“No decisions have been made, but we need to consider how we focus our limited resources on the greatest health needs of our population to make sure we can secure the best possible health
outcomes for local people.

“We know that these proposals will affect a limited number of couples, but that impact to those couples has the potential to be great.

“We need to make sure that we understand and consider the views and needs of the people who may need these services in the future, and we will be working with local community and voluntary groups over the coming weeks to gather views to help us make this decision.”

The Fertility Network, which provides support and advice on fertility issues, warned about a growing “trend in England for Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to reduce, and in some cases remove IVF treatment allocations altogether”.

In a previous statement, Labour MP Diane Abbott said: “The variation in availability of IVF treatment in different parts of the country will cause enormous distress to many couples looking to have children.

“It shows the postcode lottery throughout the NHS combined with cuts to services. This is the fault of this Government, which Theresa May has been at the centre of for 6 years.

“The Government should end its underfunding of the NHS and end the chaotic reorganisations which exacerbate the postcode lotteries.”

Healthcare provisions are devolved in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

More: baby, Couples, England, fertility, Gay, IVF, LGBT, Same-sex

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