IVF treatment on NHS to be reinstated
PUBLISHED: 10:37 05 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:10 05 February 2020
Life-changing IVF treatment will be available once again to couples in north east Essex, ending a postcode lottery which impacted those wanting to start a family in the area.
Since 2015 there has been a restriction in place, meaning patients in Colchester and Tendring had no access to IVF - while those in Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk CCG areas were granted two free cycles of treatment.
But now Dr Hasan Chowhan, chairman of the North East Essex CCG, has announced the governing body of the group has agreed to reinstate the service in April 2020.
He sad: "Back in 2015, we did promise we would review the restriction at regular intervals.
"We have kept to our word and after now achieving a healthier financial position, we are able to reinstate this service for people who meet the clinical criteria."
Two cycles of IVF treatment will be available to couples who meet the necessary criteria from Wednesday April 1, which brings the area back in line with the Suffolk threshold.
Claire Owen, a mum who benefitted from three cycles of NHS-funded IVF at Bourn Hall in 2012 when she lived in Colchester, spoke out about how unfair she felt the system was.
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"We were incredibly lucky to benefit from three funded cycles," said Mrs Owen, who now lives in Woodbridge.
"It's devastating to think that, if there had been no free cycles available to us, that we wouldn't have had our wonderful son and enjoyed the last five years as a family.
"As someone who relied on NHS-funded IVF to conceive, the current postcode lottery seems extremely unjust to me.
"How can it be fair for people in north east Essex to be denied treatment while their counterparts in Suffolk receive two funded cycles?"
As for the rest of the county, neither Mid Essex CCG and Basildon and Brentwood CCG currently offer NHS-funded IVF treatment.
Mr Chowhan said he was aware of the pain the initial decision caused, adding: "While I am pleased that the CCG is now in a position to reinstate this policy, I also appreciate and acknowledge the emotional strain and heartache this would have caused many local couples who would have wanted this treatment since the restriction was introduced in 2015.
"Implementing this policy at that time was an extremely difficult decision for myself and my board colleagues, but we did so to ensure our limited resource was put to the best possible use to the majority of people we serve."
Healthwatch Essex has also agreed to support the CCG in reinstating the policy and will help them to inform patients.