Anger at IVF treatment shake-up

FAMILIES in Essex desperate to have children through IVF face travelling as far as away as Leicestershire for free NHS treatment following a “shock” decision.

James Hore

FAMILIES in Essex desperate to have children through IVF face travelling as far as away as Leicestershire for free NHS treatment following a “shock” decision.

The East of England specialist commissioning group announced the number of free IVF sessions for patients on the NHS will increase from just one up to three attempts.

However all NHS patients will now have travel to clinics in Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, Leicestershire or London, despite having a highly successful fertility in Colchester.

The Isis fertility clinic has been providing treatment for NHS patients for the past four years but will no longer be able to help new patients after it was rejected as a possible location for the new arrangements.

Bosses are still seeking clarification as to whether existing NHS patients will receive additional treatments with them.

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Sarah Pallett , director of Isis, said: “This decision is completely unbelievable and has come as a real shock.

“They have given us no reason, no explanation as to why they have withdrawn funding.

“We have one of the best pregnancy rates for women under 35 - with one in two getting pregnant - that's 10 % above the national average.

“We knew the specialist commissioning group was reviewing their policy on NHS funding but when there is a first-class facility like ours delivering excellent results on the doorstep, why make people travel so far when they are extremely stressed and emotionally vulnerable?”

Mrs Pallett is now calling for the decision to be overturned and wants patients and former patients to support the campaign.

“We have an excellent relationship with the local hospitals in Colchester, Ipswich, Chelmsford and Southend and know the infertility specialists extremely well and that is important in ensuring the excellent continuity of care which our patients can expect. These hospitals have full waiting lists and we know they, too, will not be pleased by this decision,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the group which commissions services on behalf of all 14 PCTs in the East of England region, said: “Patients registered with GPs in the East of England and who meet specific eligibility criteria, will be offered a choice of five fertility service providers for their treatment.

“Following a period of procurement, the successful bidders have been named as Barts and The London Centre for Reproductive Medicine, Bourn Hall Cambridge, IVF Hammersmith, Leicester Fertility Centre, and Oxford Fertility Unit.

“Patients previously have not had the benefit of such a wide choice of treatment centres.”