Stoke & Staffordshire

North Staffordshire IVF decision 'not taken lightly'

A primary care trust revealed in a survey to offer no IVF at all says the decision not to fund treatment was "not taken lightly".

NHS North Staffordshire was one of five PCTs not offering IVF treatment at the time of a survey by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility.

The trust said it understood the decision would be very distressing.

It said it had to make "increasingly difficult decisions" about which treatments it should commission.

In a statement, it said: "We know that infertility is a condition which causes great distress to the couples concerned.

"But it does not affect general physical health or life expectancy and as such is not scored, by a clinically-led panel, as of one of our health priorities."

More than 70% of NHS trusts and care providers are ignoring official guidance on offering infertile couples three chances at IVF, according to a report by an all-party group of MPs.

At the time of the survey, North Staffordshire, North Yorkshire and York, Warrington, Stockport and West Sussex offered no IVF at all.

Others are placing tough restrictions on who can qualify.

'Financial stability'

The MPs said the result was a "postcode lottery" of care and are calling on trusts to implement the official guidelines properly.

NHS North Staffordshire said it had to focus on "the health of the people of North Staffordshire and on the need to maintain financial stability to be able to provide high quality local healthcare".

The statement said: "The NHS will never have the resources to fund every service, treatment, therapy or procedure which every individual may want...

"We will continue to work with clinicians to review the health of the population to ensure our limited funding best matches the overall needs of North Staffordshire."

In 2004 the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said couples, where the woman is aged 23 to 39, should be given up to three cycles of IVF on the NHS.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility sent freedom of information requests to primary care trusts (PCTs) in England, health boards in Scotland and Wales, and health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland.

Infertility Network UK has campaigned for more equal access to IVF treatments and says providers must follow guidance from NICE.

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