SERIOUS questions need to be asked about IVF treatment on the NHS in the Portsmouth area, despite changes to criteria, says an MP.
Eligible couples will now get to have two rounds of fertility treatment – at an average cost of around £3,000 per time – rather than one after both the Portsmouth and Fareham and Gosport Clinical Commissioning Groups approved a change.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt supported the move, but says more needs to be done to adopt less strict guidelines from The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, used by CCGs in other parts of the country.
Ms Mordaunt said: ‘It’s great that people have a second chance and that needs to be welcomed, but there needs to be some serious questions asked about why we are deviating from Nice guidelines.
‘For instance if a woman has not had a baby, but her partner has a child from a previous relationship, then that couple would not be eligible for the treatment.
‘There is also a restriction on age – women here don’t have as long as other areas that adopt the Nice guidelines.
‘We’ve supported couples to get IVF despite them not being completely eligible, but the guidelines need to be looked at so that isn’t the case.’
Before the changes in criteria, women in the Portsmouth area could have only one cycle. However in keeping with new Nice guidelines, a second embryo can be frozen.
In 2013/14, the F&G CCG funded 27 in-vitro fertilisation cycles, and in Portsmouth 32.
Dr David Chilvers, lead for the F&G CCG, said: ‘We have looked very carefully at this.
‘There has been a clinical review of all the latest evidence, and we have asked the public for their views as well.
‘Striking the right balance is terribly difficult.
‘On the one hand there are people who are desperate to have children, but on the other hand the success rate of IVF is not high, and we know that many people legitimately question how much of our limited NHS resources should be spent on treatments which are relatively unlikely to work.
‘This decision will mean that, locally, a few more people each year get the opportunity to have a child, and is in line with the views of the clinicians, and public opinion as well.
‘It’s not possible to reach a decision about IVF which pleases everyone, but this strikes a good balance.’
In the Portsmouth area, the criteria is more strict than Nice guidelines, with women getting treatment up to the age of 35, compared to Nice guidelines of up to 42.
And couples must be non-smoking and the woman have a Body Mass Index of between 19 and 29, compared to Nice guidelines to advise couples to stop smoking, or offer weight-loss help to women with a BMI of more than 29.
The views of the public as well as clinicians were sought in order to determine what, if any changes would be made to IVF criteria.
The South Eastern Hampshire CCG, which covers the Havant area, is due to make a decision today.
IVF is one of several techniques available to help couples with fertility problems to have a baby.
During IVF, an egg is surgically removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg, now called an embryo, is then returned to the woman’s womb to grow and develop.
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