Today I received a letter from Lou Patten, Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in response to my letter of last month calling for the adoption of NICE guidelines with regards to IVF in Oxfordshire. My letter followed that of Jackie Price-Doyle MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, who wrote to highlight new guidance from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, urging CCGs to use the guidance as a basis to adopt the NICE guidelines on IVF provision.
The response I have received from the CCG makes it clear that they, alongside other CCGs in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, have no plans to reconsider their policies. The letter disputes the existence of local disparities between providers and the number of cycles of treatment they offer saying CCGs in neighbouring counties, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, only offer 1 cycle of treatment. However, they fail to mention that two other neighbouring providers, Swindon CCG (which also covers my constituency) and Gloucestershire CCG, provide 3 cycles of treatment. The CCG go on to say ‘61% of CCGs in England fund one cycle only.’ This may well be true, but it is certainly not a satisfactory state of affairs, nor an excuse to avoid funding treatment fully in line with NICE guidelines.
The CCG also pointed to an online document which outlined their rationale for departing from the NICE guidelines, based primarily on costs implications. I would hope that the CCG will have discussed this issue in some detail since receiving new guidance from the Minister however the document is dated 24 May 2013, so I suspect that is not the case.
I am disappointed that the CCG seem to have disregarded the Minister’s letter entirely and have tried to palm me off with a document written 6 years ago. I hope they are not showing the same casual disregard for local residents who simply want to enjoy family life with children of their own and are looking to the CCG for support in achieving that.
The response I have received has hardened my resolve to campaign even harder on this issue. I will be speaking to colleagues in the Houses of Parliament with constituencies covered by Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire CCGs to see what actions we might be able to take as a group to bring about change on this issue. I will also continue to work with local campaigners and support national campaigns led by Fertility Fairness and the Fertility Network.
This inequality affecting would be parents in my constituency and across the country has been allowed to exist for much too long and must be bought to an end.