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IVF funding restored in south Norfolk two years after it was cut to save money

PUBLISHED: 23:30 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 07:52 07 February 2019

Jess Hasketh-Boston from Horsford had her daughter Elisabeth (Lizzie) after they funded their own IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Norwich. Photo: Bourn Hall

Jess Hasketh-Boston from Horsford had her daughter Elisabeth (Lizzie) after they funded their own IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Norwich. Photo: Bourn Hall

Bourn Hall

Couples in South Norfolk will once again be able to access fertility treatment after health bosses reversed a decision made two years ago.

Thanos Papathanasiou, Lead Clinician for Bourn Hall. Photo: Bourn HallThanos Papathanasiou, Lead Clinician for Bourn Hall. Photo: Bourn Hall

In January 2016, the South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) cut all NHS-funded IVF treatment except in certain circumstances.

At the time clinicians and campaigners said they were “dismayed” and left couples facing a cruel postcode lottery.

But from April 1 the service will be restored, offering two cycles for women between 23 and 39 who meet the eligibility criteria, and one cycle of IVF for women aged between 40 and up to the age of 42.

It is still below the NICE recommended three cycles which should be offered, but it does bring south Norfolk into line with the rest of the county.

Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, regional lead clinician for Bourn Hall clinic, which helps many Norfolk couples conceive, said: “We are delighted that South Norfolk CCG has taken this positive step and removed the postcode lottery in Norfolk.

“Now all patients will have the same pathway and if they require IVF treatment and meet the strict eligibility criteria they will be offered two funded cycles of IVF.

“About half our patients get pregnant with each cycle of IVF so this gives a real chance of a family for couples struggling with infertility.”

Jess Hasketh-Boston from Horsford had her daughter Elisabeth after they funded their own IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Norwich.

She said: “This is great news for south Norfolk residents. I have known people who have been unable to have a family because they could not afford treatment. We were lucky after we no longer qualified for treatment, as my husband was able to work away to raise the funds. If we were unable to do this we would not have our gorgeous Elisabeth. And I simply cannot imagine that now”.

Dr Thanos also said he hoped it would encourage more couples to seek help, as knowing there was not funding available could have previously discouraged this.

He said: “In addition, the availability of funding also encourages people to seek advice on fertility as they know treatment will be available.

“Only a few of these couples will require IVF treatment and for many simple lifestyle changes or medication to boost egg production will be enough to improve their chances of a natural conception and their overall health.”

The decision to cut provision to only those with certain health conditions or undergoing treatment which would leave them infertile was made to save money.

At the time the CCG was overspending by £14m a year and a spokesman said “and all areas of healthcare were examined for savings”.

He added: “The intention was always to review this decision when circumstances allowed.”

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