A Luton couple has spoken out over a proposed cut to IVF treatment in the town as Bedfordshire's healthcare leaders consider reducing the number of treatments from three cycles to one.
The Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) Clinical Commissioning Group has today (October 12) launched a consultation about whether it should reduce its support for NHS funded IVF in Luton from February 2022.
Currently if you live in Bedford or Milton Keynes, you may be eligible for one cycle of NHS funded IVF. However, if you live in Luton the treatment is the full three cycles, as recommended by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) as providing the best chance of success. But change is in the offing to make the service uniform across the BLMK patch following the merger of the three local CCGs in April.
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Angeliqua and Haydn Smith, from Luton, are parents to 20-month-old Isabella after successful IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridgeshire. Their daughter was conceived after their third - and final - round of NHS-funded treatment.
Angeliqua said: "Were it not for us being able to access the full three rounds of NHS-funded IVF treatment we would possibly not have our beautiful daughter. Life is just magical now!
"Three cycles is what is recommended by NICE and we strongly believe that other couples in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes in need of IVF treatment all deserve to have the same chance of success that we had. Everyone deserves a chance to become parents."
Bourn Hall has been providing NHS treatment to the people of Bedfordshire for over ten years. In 2019 the live birth rate for NHS patients in Bedford was 43%, which is significantly above the national average and for those from Luton it was nearer to 70%.
Dr Mike Macnamee, chief executive of Bourn Hall said: “The number of people requiring IVF is very small but for those involved it is life changing. In Bedford over the last 5 years, we have treated 312 couples, resulting in 119 babies.
“Infertility is caused by many factors which creates many unknowns for treatment. Offering the potential of three fresh cycles reduces the stress for patients as they know they can have another chance.
“Involuntary childlessness blights lives. The CCG has the option to level up and offer 3 cycles to all patients in Bedfordshire. Knowing that they have been given this chance removes the ‘if only’ and can help people move on to create fulfilling lives, even if they are not ultimately successful.”
BLMK CCG is proposing to reduce the current offer of three cycles of IVF to residents in Luton to one cycle for all eligible patients. The public consultation runs from October 12 to December 21 and the CCG particularly wants the views of people not directly affected by the proposed cut.
Speaking at the CCG’s general meeting last month, Dr Sarah Whiteman, BLMK CCG chair, said: “Ultimately, the consultation is about collating the views. It is the CCG that has to make the difficult decisions about what to commission based on evidence.
“Of course, it isn't just about the money, it's also about value for money and whether or not three [fertility] cycles offer that or not, for example. So it is a complex argument.”
Those who need a gluten free diet could also lose out under the recommendations to streamline services. Currently Luton is the only area in within the BLMK area which offers gluten-free foods (bread and flour) on prescription.
You can find more about the consultation at https://www.blmkccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/consultation-and-engagement/engagement-opportunities/blmk-policy-consultation/If you cannot access the documents online you can call 01525 624264 or email [email protected] to request paper copies.