A women’s hospital trust is considering expanding into the Middle East after being approached by a state seeking to cut its waiting list for fertility treatment, HSJ has learned.
The unnamed Middle Eastern state’s approach to Liverpool Women’s Foundation Trust was revealed in a loan application by the trust released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Liverpool Women’s applied in January for a £6m loan from the independent trust finance facility, to expand the UK operations of its Hewitt Fertility Centre. The centre’s work is described in the application as “highly profitable for the trust”.
The loan will not be used for the foreign work but the documentation set out details of the trust’s “international expansion plan”.
It said this plan was “based on replicating practice, procedures and equipment from the HFC”. It added that the Middle Eastern country, the name of which was redacted from the released document, had “proposed that the new service should, along with existing providers, seek to eliminate a waiting list for publically-funded fertility treatment”.
The Hewitt Fertility Centre carries out 2,500 cycles of in-vitro fertilisation for public and private patients a year and employs 60 staff.
The document said international expansion was one of three strands to the trust’s growth strategy.
The loan would allow the expansion of its Liverpool base in order to “attract additional patients from north Lancashire and Cumbria”, the trust’s business plan said.
It would also see the development of a network of satellite sites that sent cycles to the central unit.
The area in which this network would be developed was also redacted from the document released, but it said there was only one other NHS provider in the area.
The trust set up a Hewitt Fertility Centre satellite unit in Knutsford, Cheshire, last May and hopes to perform 300 IVF cycles there in its first year.
It said growing market demand and the reputation of the “HFC brand” were key to the success of the growth strategy.
The application put the current UK spend on assisted conception at £400m.
But it noted: “The market remains fragmented with over 60 providers regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Agency, mostly these are relatively small providers with a turnover of less than £10m a year.”
The LWH document added that the “success [rate] of providers varies widely”. It claimed one provider in the North West had achieved a pregnancy rate of just 21 per cent for the under-35s in 2012, the lowest pregnancy rate in the UK, whereas the Hewitt Fertility Centre was “currently achieving a success rate of 57 per cent”.
It also cited the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London’s Harley Street as having the “highest rate in the UK at 70.3 per cent.”
The private London centre charges £2,500 for IVF treatment, not including consultation and other fees.
Liverpool Women’s loan from the independent trust finance facility was approved in January and will be repaid over 10 years at the National Loan Fund rate of 2.02 per cent.
Approximately 20 per cent of the £95m-turnover trust’s income comes from commissioners outside of the greater Liverpool area.
The 202-bed hospital anticipates making £3.9m from its private work in the 2013-14 financial year.