Digital and Media Communications Officer, Fertility Network UK
The postcode lottery is cruel and unjust. Access to fertility treatment should be dependent on your medical need, not your postcode or pay packet.
The UK pioneered IVF over 40 years ago, but that achievement means nothing if only those who can afford to pay for private fertility treatment benefit from it. This is why, in September 2018, Fertility Network UK, together with IVF Babble, launched the #Scream4IVF campaign, to fight against the postcode lottery. In just two months, this petition was able to raise over 102,000 signatures, signifying the true depth of feeling and anguish against this unfair system.
Cross-party support for improving access to IVF
Now, Fertility Network UK are proud to support Dr Emily Scott’s petition #EndTheIVFPostcodeLottery, which is campaigning for fair access to IVF. This petition has cross-party support. The Early Day Motion for the #EndTheIVFPostcode petition has been signed by Liberal Democrat’s Layla Moran, Independent’s Ed Vaizey and Labour’s Steve McCabe, among many others.
Former Health Minister, Jackie Doyle-Price, has also written a letter to all clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), calling the postcode lottery a ‘disgrace’.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommend that all CCGs offer three rounds of IVF for women under 40 who have not conceived in two years. In reality, the situation is much more bleak.
Some CCGs are cutting IVF services due to financial restrictions
According to Fertility Fairness data, only 12.2% of CCGs in this country offer the recommended three cycles of IVF, and there are five CCGs who currently do not offer any fertility treatment for those living in the area.
The last few CCGs who have held consultations on IVF funding have all made decisions that have devastated those who need fertility treatment in that area. For example, in August of this year, after months of consultations, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG decided to continue to cease funding until their financial situation improves. In September, Stockport CCG released a statement, saying they are considering reducing funding to one cycle or cutting fertility services altogether, also due to financial challenges.
Price isn’t everything
However, the cost impact of fertility services is majorly exaggerated. According to Fertility Fairness data, on average, CCGs that funded a single cycle spent 0.0089% of their total commissioning budget on fertility treatment. CCGs that funded the maximum three cycles spent 0.108% of their total budget on fertility services.
Both economically and emotionally, funding fertility treatment will only cause a positive impact on society. Every year our net population decreases. The small cost investment into IVF can save the NHS a huge amount. It is not only funding for those who are facing infertility, but it also creates future taxpayers who will eventually invest back into society and the NHS, more than the CCG spends on fertility services.