Friday, March 1, 2024

NHS-funded IVF for couples in Thurrock to start in April 

A POSTCODE lottery of who can receive fertility treatment on the NHS in large parts of Essex has been scrapped following a decision to harmonise services.

The now non-operational Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group stopped referrals for couples seeking fertility treatment on the NHS in 2016. Mid Essex CCG cut IVF funding in 2014.

But now the NHS Mid and South Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB), which replaced clinical commissioning groups last year, said it was bringing back fertility services for people across the whole patch covering Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Castle Point, Chelmsford, Maldon, Rochford, Thurrock and Southend.

The mid and south Essex ICB replaces services provided by the CCGs of Basildon and Brentwood, Castle Point and Rochford, Mid Essex, Thurrock and Southend. That system had been under scrutiny for years because some services were provided on the NHS only to people who lived in specific CCG areas.

The proposals fertility treatment will only be offered to couples where there are no living children in the current relationship and where neither partner has children from previous relationships. This includes any adopted child within their current or previous relationship.

The policy change also means other treatments – bariatic surgery, uneven breast correction surgery, breast reduction, vasectomy or female sterilisation services- once available in some parts but not in others under the old CCG system will now be available across the whole of the ICB area from April 1.

The ICB estimates harmonisation will cost it up to £1.076m annually. But it adds that given the potential for latent demand, there is likely to be a spike in activity in the first few years following policy implementation adding another 50 per cent to the total annual cost. The ICB statement adds: “At a high level, harmonising policy is necessary to reduce the previous postcode lottery and to equalise access to health benefits.”

Professor Mike Thorne, chairman of mid and south Essex ICB said at a meeting on February 9: “We have now harmonised those policies. Can I thank all the clinicians that have been involved in this quite large piece of work that started its journey last February.

“It has been done very thoroughly. I am sure those people who will benefit from  the enhanced availabilities of these various policies will be very grateful indeed.”

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