St Albans woman’s anguish: ‘IVF cuts have denied me the chance to be a mum’

Chris and Charlotte have been denied IVF treatment.

Chris and Charlotte have been denied IVF treatment. - Credit: Archant

‘Our chance to have a baby has been taken away.’

Chris and Charlotte have been denied IVF treatment.

Chris and Charlotte have been denied IVF treatment. - Credit: Archant

This is the damning indictment made by a St Albans woman denied the IVF treatment she desperately needs to become a mother following swingeing NHS cuts.

Sports therapist Charlotte Waring, 34, has condemned the decision by Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to axe IVF treatment in a bid to save £45million.

Her endometriosis has caused her years of fertility problems including an ectopic pregnancy at seven weeks, which meant her unborn baby had to be removed to save her life.

Charlotte and husband Chris would have been perfect candidates for IVF if the CCG had not cut funds to the service at a crunch meeting last week.

Herts Valleys CCG decided to cut IVF funding for at least a year, other than in exceptional circumstances, whereas East and North Herts CCG agreed to only fund one cycle of IVF treatment instead of three.

Charlotte condemned the decision as unfair to all couples in the same situation as her and Chris: “Both myself and my husband are devastated that our chance to have a baby has been taken away following what we believe to be a very biased consultation by Herts Valleys CCG.

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“Seventy per cent of the public were against the cuts to IVF when consulted. Every piece of input and evidence submitted by consultants and experts in the field of gynaecology and reproductive medicine was also against the cuts. Not one specialist asked supported it. This makes the decisions by Herts Valleys CCG very hard to take and understand because the board making this decision is made up of management with no medical training and GPs with no specialist training in this field.

“You would think that when making a decision to cut treatment they would be duty bound to take into account the views of the people trained in that area and the strong rejection of this policy from the public. Having attended many of their meetings it is apparent to me that this decision was already made and the consultation happened so that they can tick a box. There is absolutely no accountability in the NHS anymore at all sadly.”

She says available treatment has become a postcode lottery in the wake of the decision, with discrepancies between the IVF policies of different CCGs.

“I was categorically told by Herts Valleys chief executive Kathryn Magson that all Herts CCGs would offer the same number of rounds of IVF. This did not happen and I feel I was lied to which is disgraceful. My husband and myself as well as every other couple in St Albans will be in a position that a five minute drive away in Hatfield you can get IVF but in London Colney where I live you can’t. Considering the high rates of tax we all pay in this area this to me is unjustifiable.”

She added: “This decision will cause undue suffering to a very vulnerable patient group who many of whom have already like myself suffered the loss of a baby. Unfortunately we are an easy target for the CCG as there are not large numbers of people to fight and some are already so stressed and defeated that they can’t fight.

“However, every person below the age of 35 and everyone who has had children should be standing up to fight this now. You won’t know if you or your children will need IVF in the future until it’s too late. “The whole country should pay attention to what’s happening here and in a few other CCGs because they will cut local area by local area until you can not get IVF anywhere on the NHS. Doing it this way prevents a large countrywide backlash.”

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.

The decisions follow a 10-week consultation on a series of proposals, where broadly respondents agreed with the suggested changes. IVF was the one exception where the majority – 45 per cent – were in favour of funding three treatment cycles.