Time to Offer Equality in Fertility Treatment

This article originally appeared in the Herald Newspaper on 31st July 2019.

Around the country, those who are unfortunately not able to conceive children naturally turn to alternative methods, such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).

NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines recommend 3 cycles of IVF for women under 40, certain other conditions having been met. However, local NHS organisations remain free to set their own treatment plans on this issue: Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group only provides 1 cycle of treatment on the NHS to women under 35. Women who fall outside these slim criteria or who fail to conceive on their 1 round of treatment must then seek private treatment, where bills can run into the thousands of pounds.

I have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years now: In November 2018 I met with Professor Tim Child, clinical director of Oxford Fertility, to discuss Steve McCabe MP’s bill which proposes that the government sets a minimum number of cycles of IVF treatment, ending the localised disparities that affect residents here in Oxfordshire and in many more areas across the UK. More recently I have been supporting Fertility Network UK’s #Scream4IVF campaign.

Currently, it is the local CCG’s (Clinical Commissioning Group) role to decide how many cycles of IVF should be provided on the NHS, and we have been fighting hard for a government standardised minimum.

I am delighted therefore to hear that Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Health and Social Care, has written to the Oxfordshire CCG (as well as CCGs across the country) to bring to their attention the publication of new guidance from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. This new guidance will help CCGs make the most effective commissioning decisions about fertility treatment as well as offering other support. In light of the new advice the Minister has recommended that CCGs look again at their commissioning approach and encourages them to move towards full implementation of the NICE guidelines.

I too have written to the Chief Executive of the CCG in light of the Minister’s letter to offer my whole-hearted support to the proposals.

I hope residents will support the Minister and I in calling for the delivery of this vital treatment to those who have problems with fertility, as well as to same sex couples, so that they can finally achieve the family that they so desperately want.