FINANCE: A clinical commissioning group in York has been criticised by fertility groups after an “appalling” decision that will make it the only CCG in England not to offer IVF treatment.

The criticism from the National Infertility Awareness Campaign comes after Vale of York CCG voted to temporarily defer commissioning IVF services to 2015-16, having previously agreed in principle to fund it.

Susan Seenan, co-chair of the campaign, condemned its policy backtrack.

“To say…they were going to reinstate funding, give patients hope that they would actually be able to access treatment and then turn around and say that they changed their mind is appalling.”

Tim Hughes, a GP member of the CCG’s governing body said the decision was made “with a heavy heart”.

He said “lengthy discussion” between the members had “highlighted the huge financial pressures it endured while meeting its duty to commission safe and effective health and care services”.

Commissioning IVF treatment “carries a great element of financial risk for the CCG”, he added. The group estimated it could cost up to £2m a year.

Fertility treatment

The CCG estimated it could cost up to £2m a year to commission IVF treatment

“To put this into perspective, in a year, £2m equates to either two fully staffed and operational hospital wards, 293 major hip replacements, treatment for more than 21,500 average attendances at accident and emergency or 43 qualified nurses employed full time for a year,” he explained.

Dr Hughes stressed that this was a “temporary position” and the CCG will “aspire to commission IVF in the future”.

The CCG inherited the policy of North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust to not routinely commission assisted conception services for the last five years.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that women should be offered three rounds of IVF on the NHS, but local commissioners make the funding decisions.

While many CCGs do not offer three full cycles, Vale of York and Scarborough and Ryedale CCGs were the only ones that do not fund IVF services at all, according to the charity Infertility Network. Scarborough and Ryedale CCG began funding IVF services at the start of the month.

Mid Essex CCG recently proposed limiting fertility treatment to cancer patients and HIV positive men, citing financial concerns.