Family's plea to save IVF services in Luton ahead of December 21 consultation deadline

NHS treatments could be cut from three down to one

By Lynn Hughes
Friday, 17th December 2021, 12:21 pm
Updated Friday, 17th December 2021, 12:22 pm

A consultation on the future of NHS funded IVF treatment across Luton, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes, closes on December 21.

And a Luton family has joined with an IVF charity to urge people to take part in the discussion. At risk is a reduction of NHS funded IVF treatments in Luton from three to one.

Eloise Pyper and her husband Ian had two sets of treatment before conceiving their baby girl on their third attempt.

Eloise and Ian with their daughter

Currently if you live in Bedford or Milton Keynes, you may be eligible for one cycle of NHS funded IVF. However, if you live in Luton the treatment is the full three cycles, as recommended by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) as providing the best chance of success. But change is in the offing to make the service uniform across the BLMK patch following the merger of the three local CCGs in April.

Fertility Network UK is urging family and friends of people struggling with infertility – and seen the impact on their lives - to have their say.

Gwenda Burns, Chief Executive of Fertility Network UK, says: “Yearning for a baby can damage mental wellbeing and destroy relationships, but often couples hide the pain. Time is running out to have a say and it is really important that commissioners hear from those who don't have fertility issues, as well as those that do, about the devastating impact infertility has on the quality of life.

“It is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that everyone who meet the eligibility criteria should have three full cycles funded by the NHS as this offers the best chance of success. We would like to see this guidance followed in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes.”

In Scotland, where three cycles are provided on the NHS, the decision was based on evidence that showed that less than 10% of patients would need this full level of treatment, so the higher success rates of over 60% were justified by the small additional cost.

IVF birth rates have increased since this research was completed with Bourn Hall, provider of NHS funded IVF treatment to patients across the East of England reporting over 70% of patients becoming pregnant within three cycles.

Dr Mike Macnamee, CEO of Bourn Hall says: “Effective fertility treatment requires repeated exposure to the opportunity to conceive and the link between increased female age and reduced chance of success is well recognised. So, the best patient outcomes are when treatment happens in the shortest time frame possible.”

Bourn Hall patients Eloise and her husband Ian lived in Luton when they were referred for IVF and were entitled to three fresh cycles (defined as three fresh IVF treatments including transfer of any frozen embryos created during treatment). The couple conceived on their second frozen embryo transfer after two fresh cycles - if they had lived in Bedford they wouldn’t have their baby girl.

Infertility is a type of grief and Eloise says she told few people about how she was feeling: “I do think infertility is something that you have to go through to really understand, but my mum was also deeply affected; grieving the loss that it hadn’t worked and also sad for us because it wasn’t happening.”

Gwenda said: “If you haven't already, please respond to the consultation and let them know what you think before it closes on December 21 - and also please try to get as many of your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues as you can to do it too!”

Details of the consultation questionnaire here - https://eu.surveymonkey.com/r/BLMK-PolicyAlignment There are more details about the consultation itself here - https://www.blmkccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/consultation-and-engagement/engagement-opportunities