An IVF campaign group has discovered that Greater Manchester features the highest quality fertility treatment anywhere within the NHS system.
Yet the Fertility Fairness campaign suggests that the quality of IVF treatment delivered within England is generally sub-standard.
Of 209 clinical commissioning groups, Fertility Fairness believes that only four are meeting national guidelines on IVF treatment.
And all four of these clinics are located in Greater Manchester, characterised by the offering of three cycles of IVF as part of their overall program of care.
Meanwhile, campaigners have shamed clinics in Essex and South Norfolk for cutting all NHS fertility treatments.
Essex is thus considered the worst location in Britain for those struggling to conceive a child, with three CCGs in the county having cut all fertility treatment on the NHS completely.
South Norfolk CCG has also decommissioned its NHS fertility services.
Fertility Fairness also found that 60% of the clinics in England offer just one cycle of IVF, compared to the three that the campaigning group considers to be ideal.
Greater Manchester was particularly praised as it offers even more support than the minimum recommended by NICE.
A Fertility Fairness spokesman also noted that in Scotland three cycles were offered, while the NHS in Wales and Northern Ireland offered two and one respectively.
Yes despite the fact that the campaign group considers the existing situation to be unsatisfactory, it also believes that it could deteriorate still further in the near future.
Fertility Further outlined that 10% of CCGs in England are considering reducing or decommissioning services, and believe that this will have a very detrimental social impact.
Co-chair Susan Seenan of Fertility Fairness outlined why campaigners consider this to be such a serious issue.
“This is cruel and unethical, and a national disgrace for the country that pioneered IVF. Infertility is a disease, and women and men who cannot become parents without medical help are as deserving of healthcare as people with other medical conditions.”
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt had previously indicated the intention of the government to intervene if local health bodies were not meeting clinically agreed standards of care.
England health minister Nicola Blackwood is similarly concerned about the issue, and called on organisations within the NHS system to pay heed to existing legislation.
“I am very disappointed to learn that access to IVF treatment on the NHS has been reduced in some places and it is unacceptable that some clinical commissioning groups have stopped commissioning it completely. I would strongly encourage all CCGs to implement the Nice fertility guidelines in full, as many CCGs have successfully done.”
A poll conducted among NHS doctors reveals that one-in-three believe that the NHS should cease funding IVF treatment for couples who are unable to conceive.
The number of couples benefiting from IVF treatment in the UK has increased massively in recent years, with around 50,000 women undergoing the procedure on an annual basis.
Naturally for many people this is their last hope of naturally conceiving a baby, but it is clear that health professionals believe that the situation has become serious for the NHS.
Although the majority of doctors do not share this perspective, it is clear that a significant minority believe that IVF is a luxury that should be funded privately.
Fertility experts, however, believe that blocking conception treatment would be grossly unfair and a huge backward step.
To put this issue into perspective, it is already known that over 15% of British couples have difficulty with conceiving a child.
And considering the vast expense of IVF treatment, such a decision would preclude many people from having families.
Private clinics charge £5,000 per IVF cycle, with no guarantee of pregnancy from any individual treatment.
Nonetheless, the survey of 521 GPs, conducted by the research arm of the publishers of Pulse magazine, found that 34 per cent of doctors think the NHS should stop funding IVF.
One wonders if the financial position of doctors contributed to this statistic, as there is no doubt that many of the couples who receive NHS funding simply could not afford private treatment.
Commenting on the issue, one female GP, who did not wish to be named, told Pulse magazine: “It is very complex, but personally I don’t think infertility is a disease. I appreciate for some people it is and it’s very stressful. But it concerns me that people feel that having a child is a right.”
However, Professor Geeta Nargund, Medical Director of Create Fertility, which has five clinics in the UK, believes that the proposal made by the doctors in the survey should be considered somewhat disturbing.
“Infertility is a disease which affects one in six couples in the UK. It has physical, emotional and societal implications. It would be grossly unfair if they considered stopping IVF on the NHS.”
The opinion of doctors in the survey is certain to be informed by the financial problems facing the National Health Service.
Health bosses have already been tasked with saving £22 billion via efficiency drives over the next five years by NHS England and the Conservative government.
Other operative cost-cutting measures may also be considered by the NHS as it attempts to respond to this cash crisis.
A British clinic has developed a new form of IVF treatment that promises to revolutionise this sector of healthcare.
The technology in question enables conception to occur in the womb, rather than the laboratory as has been the case previously.
Doctors hope that making fertilisation more natural will mean healthier pregnancies, And the advantages to expectant mothers are obvious.
The Complete Fertility clinic in Southampton is first in the UK To utilise this new approach, which has been dubbed the AneVivo device method.
While some early analysis and murmurings on this subject have suggested that the new development is merely a gimmick, the manufacturers have strongly suggested otherwise.
Prof Nick Macklon, head of the clinic in Southampton, insisted That the technology was a fantastic innovation that was have a massive influence over IVF treatment in time.
“At this stage we are just offering it to private patients. If the NHS want to use it then they would need to know that it is cost effective. We do not know that yet. But that doesn’t mean new technology like this can’t be introduced in a cautious manner. I’m very keen that we study new innovation in IVF.”
This new technique will cast of patience around £700 per treatment, and has already been approved and rubberstamped by the UK fertility watchdog.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the UK’s independent regulator overseeing the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research, Has okayed the AneVivo device method To be utilised within the British healthcare system.
And a series of international trials that have already been conducted Suggest that the new technology will achieve a similar pregnancy rate to conventional IVF treatments.
250 women volunteered to participate in trials, and the initial signs for for the new techniques are certainly encouraging.
However, it should be noted that the new techniques significantly reduces the length of time that the current embryo can be kept outside of the world artificially in a dish of culture fluid.
Macklon Span of the homes of the technology, and outlined how it could benefit pregnant women in the future.
“The aim is to maximise the time spent in the body rather than in the lab. The immediate benefit is reducing exposure at this very vulnerable time of human development when genes are being switched on and off.”
In addition to the aspect of convenience, it has also been suggested in some studies that growing embryos in a dish increases the risk of genetic and other health defects.
When the HFEA approved the technology, its advisory committee stated that there was no evidence that the device should be considered unsafe.
However, it “did not feel that there was sufficient clinical data to say whether the process has a greater or lesser efficacy than that of traditional IVF methods” and it said the process “might add an unnecessary cost to patients”.
It seems that Britain’s first national sperm bank has not been a roaring success, after it opened just under a year ago.
Figures released this week have indicated that just nine men are currently registered as donors at the site in Birmingham.
With such a poor response, the chief executive of the bank, Laura Witjens, has stated that efforts must be made to recruit more men to the fold.
Witjens has even suggested that appealing to men’s sense of virility may reap reward and attract more willing donors.
Such an approach has been successfully adopted in Denmark, where a campaign prominently based around a superhero image has proven to be popular.
In relation to the plan, Witjens stated that “if I advertised saying ‘Men, prove your worth, show me how good you are’, then I would get hundreds of donors.
“That’s the way the Danish do it. They proudly say, this is the Viking invasion, exports from Denmark are beer, Lego and sperm. It’s a source of pride.”
Although there are numerous possible reasons for the small numbers of donors, a recent change in UK law is thought to have had a serious impact on men’s willingness to participate.
According to the legislation passed in 2005, sperm donors can no longer claim anonymity. Instead, children conceived using donor eggs or sperm will be able to trace their biological parents.
Although children created via sperm donations would never have the legal right to make a financial claim against a donor, it is still believed that this prospect is negatively impacting upon the number of men willing to donate.
But Witjens was keen to emphasise that this shouldn’t be a barrier to donation. “One of the problems we have is this myth that you become the father either legally or socially.”
“Children may want to know who their biological father is, but it doesn’t mean to say that at the age of 18 they knock on your door and call you daddy. It’s about curiosity.”
With the intention of addressing the shortage of donors in the UK, the national sperm bank received an initial government grant of £77,000 when it was inaugurated. But the bank will be funded independently of the government going forward.
Despite the disappointing number of donors that the new centre has attracted, Witjens was also keen to emphasise that even the amount of sperm donated would enable 90 families to receive donations at home rather than travelling abroad.
An additional issue for the sperm bank is the number of men who fail the stringent conditions for sperm freezing. Around 80-90% of respondents are unable to meet these conditions, and are thus not suitable donors.
Increasing the amount of money donors receive has also been suggested as a way of attracting more men. Donors are paid £35 per clinic visit, but Witjens was sceptical about the value of increasing this figure.
“We might get more donors if we paid £50 or £100 per donation, but money corrupts. If you feel you can make £200 a week for four months, you might hide things about your health,” she claimed.