NHS-funded IVF treatment slashed as several cost-cutting measures backed at showdown meeting

PUBLISHED: 18:36 12 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:27 13 October 2017

NHS-funded IVF treatment has been reduced or cut for Welwyn Hatfield, St Albans and Stevenage residents. Picture credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

NHS-funded IVF treatment has been reduced or cut for Welwyn Hatfield, St Albans and Stevenage residents. Picture credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

AndreyPopov

IVF treatment funded by the NHS in Welwyn Garden City, St Albans, Stevenage and North Herts has been slashed at a crunch meeting this afternoon.

The East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for planning and paying for NHS services in Welwyn Hatfield, Stevenage and North Herts, agreed on a raft of cost-cutting measures to combat the growing financial crisis.

Among those was only funding one cycle of IVF treatment instead of three from now on.

Herts Valleys CCG, which covers Potters Bar and St Albans, previously paid for one cycle but decided at the same meeting to cut funding altogether for at least a year, other than in exceptional circumstances.

All patients who had been accepted for IVF treatment before it was “paused” for the consultation will still be eligible for the NHS-funded cycle, officials confirmed.

A Welwyn Garden City couple, who are about to start IVF, told this paper: “We are devastated that we won’t get three chances but grateful that we still have one.

“We totally understand cost-cutting measures have to be taken but obviously we are coming from a very one-sided view.

“Whilst they are still funding one [cycle] it gives us an opportunity, but obviously I feel sorry for people in Watford and the Herts Valley area who won’t get any.”

Summing up the financial challenges driving the decision, GP Corina Ciobanu said: “We debated this at great length. We are in a dire financial situation and we are in danger of having to stop really basic services.

“The GPs have taken pay cuts, the acting staff, everybody, we are really squeezed to the limit. So we understand how important the finances are.

“However, we are our patients’ GPs, we see people affected by infertility. We feel for them, we’re meant to help them and support them, so we can’t easily take a decision ‘no you shouldn’t have fertility treatment’.”

Other measures agreed at the meeting included no longer providing gluten foods on prescription and cutting funding for female sterilisation, barring exceptional circumstances.

Rules will also be tightened to ensure smokers and obese people make bigger health improvements before having non-urgent surgery – unless a longer wait would be harmful.

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