Anger after York U-turn over free IVF treatment

Campaigners have angrily condemned a decision by health chiefs in Yorkshire to backtrack on a decision to give couples free access to IVF treatment.

More than a third of new mums are told to leave their ward too early, the RCM said.

In a surprise move, NHS bosses in the Vale of York said they could not afford to relax restrictions on IVF which have been in place for at least five years.

The decision - only a month after health chiefs gave local couples hope that a ban would be lifted - leaves the NHS in the area alone in England in refusing to provide treatment.

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Officials claimed the annual cost of treatment could come to £2 million for 110 patients.

Last night the National Infertility Awareness Campaign said it “strongly condemned” the decision and questioned the costs claimed.

Its co-chair Susan Seenan said the announcement was “quite simply appalling”.

She added: “To raise the expectations of those patients in the area who need fertility treatment and then within one month smash their hopes is completely irresponsible.

“We would like to see the figures they have used to justify their decision – suggesting that offering one cycle to patients would cost as much as £2m per year simply doesn’t add up if they are talking about treating 110 patients.

“Deferring the reinstatement of funding for another year will simply add to their cost pressures as they try to deal with the backlog.”

She said national guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended up to three cycles for eligible couples and there was no reason for patients in need of treatment “to be targeted yet again by a clinical commissioning group which has for many years consistently failed them”.

GP Tim Hughes, of NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group, said it was with a “heavy heart” he announced the governing body had voted to temporarily defer the commissioning of IVF.

“The lengthy discussion today highlighted the huge financial pressures the CCG endures whilst meeting its duty to commission safe and effective health and care services,” he said.

“To put this into perspective, in a year, £2m equates to either two fully staffed and operational hospital wards, 293 major hip replacements, treatment for more than 21,500 average attendances at A&E or 43 qualified nurses employed full time for a year.

“I must emphasise that this is a temporary position. The aspiration to meet NICE criteria and to commission IVF services for couples in the Vale of York still remains.”