IVF 'postcode lottery' in Suffolk and Essex could be coming to an end
PUBLISHED: 07:30 31 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:19 31 January 2020
The 'IVF postcode lottery' that impacts couples in Suffolk and Essex could be coming to an end under new NHS proposals.
IVF treatment is not currently available on the NHS to patients living in the North East Essex CCG area, but two cycles are available to patients in the Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk CCG areas.
Claire Owen had her son Arian five years ago after successful NHS-funded IVF treatment at the Bourn Hall Fertility Clinic in Colchester.
Mrs Owen and husband Simon lived in the town in 2012 - at the time they were entitled to three rounds of NHS-funded IVF treatment but the provision has now been cut.
"We were incredibly lucky to benefit from three funded cycles," said Mrs Owen, who now lives in Woodbridge.
"Our first two cycles failed, so our third was our very last chance as we weren't in a position to pay for private treatment.
"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?" added Mrs Owen.
"I understand that different CCGs have different budgets and can use them accordingly.
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"But I believe there should be a national standard to which these groups have to adhere, to make the situation fair for everyone."
Neither the Mid Essex CCG nor the Basildon and Brentwood CCG offer funded IVF treatment.
However, policies are changing and couples living in Colchester could once again be offered funded treatment.
Bourn Hall, which provides IVF treatment for the NHS in Suffolk, believes the reinstatement of IVF in north east Essex could push other CCGs to do the same.
Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, medical director at Bourn Hall, said: "The majority of couples will get pregnant within a year of trying.
"However, for a small group of people IVF is the only chance of having a baby.
"This is the final stage of the fertility journey and it seems unfair that access to this medical treatment depends on your GP's address."
An NHS North East Essex CCG spokesman said the three CCGs in the Suffolk and north east Essex Integrated Care System (ICS) are currently in the process of reviewing their policies.
"We are proposing that two cycles of IVF treatment be made available to patients in north east Essex who meet the necessary criteria from April 1, 2020, to bring us into line with the treatment available to patients elsewhere in the ICS," said the spokesman.
"Residents in the area will be asked for their views about the proposal to reinstate IVF treatment.
"Subject to the responses received from members of the public, the proposal will need to be ratified by the CCG's governing body before it becomes policy."