Essex Health: Time to have your say on changes to health services in Essex

Changes are proposed to NHS IVF in Essex

Changes are proposed to NHS IVF in Essex - Credit: PA

We all have to make difficult financial decisions in our daily lives.

These decisions become more difficult when they mean that other people might not have access to services because funding has been allocated to somebody else.

This applies to local councils, the police and often more significantly, local health services. All public services have recently had to make major savings and spending restrictions, with health services being prominently affected. How would you allocate funding if you were in charge of healthcare funding?

You may have seen the Channel 4 documentary ‘NHS: 2 billion a Week & Counting’ on television recently which examined the hard choices that have to be made in the NHS as to who gets medical treatment at the taxpayer’s expense, and who does not.

As more people live longer, we tend to have more complex health issues and with more treatments becoming available, demand and costs accelerate.

The healthcare commissioners in north east Essex have recently come to terms with this and due to a financial deficit, now need to save £14million per year for the next four years.

This inevitably means that difficult financial decisions lie ahead to get back into balance and have sustainable healthcare services for the future. Projects such as Care Closer to Home will drive some efficiency savings as well as providing better services for patients where their healthcare will take place in a setting more convenient to them.

Most Read

However, we are now in the position that unless we stop doing some things which are of less health benefit to certain people, then we will have to restrict access to some of the more vital services that people need. As a CCG, we can only spend the money we are allocated nationally by the NHS and so cannot spend more than we have.

We have listened to many local members of the public telling us what is most vital to them and their families’ health and have drawn up proposals to restrict the less beneficial services.

Areas we have considered include vasectomy procedures and female sterilisation when other contraception methods exist. One of our most significant proposals is the way that we restrict our payment for free NHS IVF services for people who cannot conceive a child naturally.

We now want to gather the views of local people on whether this is the right decision or whether people feel there are other savings which should be made instead. Please come to one of our public meetings, have a look at our website or email to give us your views. We recognise that infertility can be a very difficult issue for those affected and we are reluctantly making this choice. If we do proceed, we will regularly review this decision.

In 2013/14, the CCG paid for 107 fertility procedures which amounted to £386,000. The same amount would achieve the following:

n 25 courses of drug treatment for breast cancer;

n 15 community nurses;

n 104 hip replacements;

n 108 patients being admitted to an acute stroke unit at Colchester General Hospital at an average cost of £3,567.

I would like to further admit that these decisions are not easy as it can always be argued that some people will have more benefits from funding decisions than others, but these are difficulties that we increasingly have to face. Please offer your opinion as soon as possible as the public consultation on IVF services ends on September 7.