Commissioners have ignored the Department of Health’s plea to follow National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance on fertility treatment.

Last month NHS deputy chief executive David Flory wrote to primary care trusts asking them to abide by NICE’s guideline for IVF treatment

The letter said: “It is important that those involved in commissioning fertility services have regard to the [NICE] guideline as it currently stands, including its recommendation that up to three cycles of IVF be offered to eligible couples where the woman is aged between 23 and 39.”

However since the letter was issued at least one primary care trust - NHS Sutton and Merton - has said it will introduce a new ban on paying for IVF for the entire year 2011-12.

The PCT faces financial difficulties and recently received a £21m bailout from its strategic health authority.

Other PCTs have told HSJ they have no plans to revisit their current restrictions on IVF, despite Mr Flory’s letter.

Primary care trusts in the north west and south east London clusters have limited residents to one IVF cycle per eligible couple, against the three set out in the NICE guidance, although Bromley PCT in the south east cluster is offering two cycles.

The north west London sector’s draft communications strategy on restricted procedures including IVF, seen by HSJ, said: “National announcements contradict local decisions. [Health secretary] Andrew Lansley urged PCTs to ‘take note’ of guidelines recommending infertile women are entitled to three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS on December 7.”

The document said the cluster would “seek clarification from the Department of Health”. The cluster plans to release its policy on IVF and their other restrictions, including on knee operations, cataracts and bariatric surgery, on Monday.

NHS Surrey confirmed last month it would not be reviewing its ban on funding most IVF until November, NHS Warrington is not due to review its current IVF restriction until July.

NHS Bury and NHS South West Essex have already suspended IVF for the remainder of 2010-11 and have said they will not renew that in the light of Mr Flory’s letter.

Bury would not confirm whether it planned to lift the suspension in April.