The Department of Health has published an interim report from an expert group on commissioning NHS infertility provision.
This calls for all commissioners of fertility services to step up their efforts to reduce the postcode lottery in NHS-funded IVF cycles and implement NICE’s recommendations in full.
A Department of Health survey of primary care trusts (PCTs) in 2007 found only seven (5%) of England’s 152 PCTs provided three full cycles of IVF treatment in line with NICE’s 2004 guideline, with wide variations in access criteria.
It recommends a national tariff for fertility services, that NICE clarifies whether it plans to change its recommendations in a future review of its guideline, that the Government writes to all commissioners defining what is meant by a full cycle of IVF and that ministers continue to monitor IVF provision.
The final report, due out in June 2009, will also examine the hidden consequences and costs of infertility on couples and the NHS such as its impact on their mental health and relationship breakdowns.
One regional health authority, the East of England, has already taken such advice on board.
From September 2009, the 14 PCTs in the region, will implement a new fertility policy that will mean eligible couples get three full treatment cycles with a maximum of six embryos transferred.
‘We are potentially offering a big improvement in the lives of many couples in the region, where IVF is clinically the right solution and has the potential to succeed,’ said Mr Peter Greenwood, lead clinician for the Fertility Services Project Steering Group.
Clare Brown, chief executive of Infertility Network UK commented: ‘I have been very impressed with the thoroughness of the approach by the East Of England Specialised Commissioning Group - especially with their understanding of infertility and their recognition that the inequity within the region was unacceptable.’