Regions in the UK have reduced or eliminated In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to save costs. A Postal Lottery is being considered for infertile couples to determine who gets to try. No one in the National Health Service (NHS) appears to be asking why so many UK couples are infertile. Another depopulation strategy?
Rima E. Laibow, MD
Fertility Network UK figures reveal many areas have stopped offering three cycles of IVF to couples trying to conceive, against government guidelines which recommend that women aged under 40 should be offered three cycles if they have been trying to conceive for two years, which means cost-cutting CCGs are defying advice set out by the government and the NHS’s own advisers.
Thirteen areas of England have restricted or completely halted IVF treatment since the start of the year for women struggling to conceive, with a further eight consulting on taking similar steps.
Data provided by Fertility Network UK showed the scale of local NHS cutbacks in a bid to save money, defying national guidelines and prompting warnings of a postcode lottery for couples trying to have children.
The figures also show that over the past four years the number of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England offering three full cycles of IVF has fallen by 46%, from 50 in 2013 to 27 this year.
Prof Simon Fishel, who was part of a team that pioneered IVF in the UK, said his main concern was the inequality of cuts. Fishel said: “What is the point of having … guidelines if they are not adhered to?… If the country decides it will not fund IVF then fine, that is a decision that affects everyone … but what I cannot abide is the local variation for something like this, which doesn’t reflect local populations. You have to treat citizens equally and this is a deliberate inequality and obfuscation and allows some areas to say they are offering IVF but when it comes down to the detail, only a tiny fraction of those who need it have access to it.”
A petition in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough calling for an end to this restrictive policy has been signed by more than 2000 people. Significantly, the amount of money saved is almost inconsequential. For example, in one region the savings amount to 700,000 Pounds while the amount of money spent on consultants to draw up a new plans for the NHS is 17.6 Million pounds.
With infertility rates rising, the impact on population is huge making a decision to withdraw funding from services to counteract that infertility of special significance.