St Albans patients could have to pay for hearing aids and IVF under new NHS cost-cutting proposals

PUBLISHED: 10:43 07 July 2017 | UPDATED: 15:54 07 July 2017

NHS IVF treatment has been suspended. Image shows the fertilisation process taking place in a lab. Picture: Phil Mynott

NHS IVF treatment has been suspended. Image shows the fertilisation process taking place in a lab. Picture: Phil Mynott

Philip Mynott +44(0)1223441995

Patients could be forced to pay for IVF treatment and hearing aids as part of an NHS group's bid to save money,

Herts Valley Clinicial Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for health services in the area, has already suspended IVF treatment for couples facing fertility problems as part of plans to save £45million.

The proposals, which the group is now consulting on, also include reducing the number of drugs available on prescription and restricting vasectomy and female sterilisation to those in exceptional circumstances.

It would also mean no longer providing gluten-free food on prescription routinely, no longer providing products that can be easily bought from chemists and supermarkets on prescription, and reviewing how they provide hearing aids to those with mild hearing loss.

READ MORE: Izzy Judd’s message of hope to would-be parents after revealing how she and McFly’s Harry Judd overcame miscarriage heartbreak and fertility problems

The chairman of a Watford patients’ group, Steve Macaulay, said his group first found out about it the day before a meeting of the HVCCG board.

He summarised the group’s reaction as mixed, with some arguing if the cuts have to come they should be made.

Others expressed their concern that it would be people suffering long-term conditions who would be worst off.

Mr Macaulay said: “It costs so much to prescribe drugs. You could buy something for 25p where a prescription could cost £25, so people can see some sense in that.

“But it’s the people who are suffering who are going to be feeling the pinch. And if there are already going to be cuts to benefits they will have to fork out, which will be the last straw.”

A HVCCG statement said: “The CCG will be reviewing and formally consulting with residents and other interested stakeholders on whether we continue to fund IVF and other specialist fertility treatments in the future.”

Medical director at Herts Valleys CCG, Dr David Buckle, said the decision was not taken lightly and it does not predetermine the outcome of the consultation.

He said: “It has been put in place to prevent an unsustainable backlog building up during the review period.”

He said exceptional cases can be considered via an individual funding request application - for example where a woman is at the upper age limit for IVF treatment during the consultation.

“During this period referrals into existing community and secondary care gynaecological and fertility services (investigations, assessments etc) will continue, the only change being the option of IVF or other speciality fertility treatment as defined in our policy.”

A couple who were planning on using a London Colney gynaecological service at the Hertfordshire GynaeCATS Clinic, Tim, 35, and Fion Smalley, 37, went to a regular appointment at the Colney Medical Centre when they heard the news.

Mr Smalley said: “We were told that IVF treatment has been suspended from June for six months while it’s under review, but might never return.

“To say we are devastated is an understatement, we feel completely let down by the NHS.

“We have always wanted to have children. My wife is devastated.”

The couple are now left with two choices to either go private or to adopt.

If the couple decide to pay for IVF at a private clinic, they could face costs of up to £5,000 or more for just one cycle.

“We can’t afford to go private but if we have to we will find a way,” Mr Smalley said.

“We have nothing against adoption but my wife wants to mother her own child and we want to have a child of our own. It’s the dream and we feel like hope is being taken away from us.”

“It’s been difficult for both of us but my wife has had to do all the work such as taking these hormone pills. We joke and call them her angry pills.

“I’m just trying to be there for her and support her but it’s so heartbreaking.”

The news comes after McFly star and Harpenden resident Harry Judd’s wife, Izzy Judd, spoke out about her own fertility problems and said that IVF offered hope for people facing difficulties themselves.

There are public meetings on Monday, July 24 at Stanborough Centre, Watford, and Monday, July 31 at 7pm to 9pm at the Rothamsted Centre, Harpenden.

Comments and questions can be sent to enquiries.hvccg@nhs.net

Anyone affected by the changes can contact the Herts Advertiser at hertsad@archant.co.uk or on 01727 863546.

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