A LONG-STANDING ban on IVF treatment in North Yorkshire is set to be finally lifted.
Doctors’ leaders in the Vale of York are next week expected to agree to fund free IVF treatment on the NHS.
The ban was due to be eased in the summer but officials from the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) left campaigners furious after they backtracked on commitments made only a month earlier to relax a block on treatment.
They claimed they could not afford to lift restrictions in the face of “huge financial pressures” amid fears a backlog in demand could cost as much as £2 million annually.
The decision left couples living in the Vale of York the only ones in England facing a blanket ban on treatment.
At a meeting on Thursday, officials are expected to agree an immediate end to the ban and to fund one cycle of IVF for eligible couples for the first time in the area since 2006.
It follows new evidence from neighbouring areas in North Yorkshire which relaxed restrictions earlier this year.
Latest figures over the 10 weeks to October 13 show six couples have been given approval to undergo IVF in Scarborough and Ryedale, while 21 have been approved in the Harrogate and Ripon areas.
Officials in the Vale of York say the exact cost of implementing the policy is “uncertain and challenging to quantify”.
But they now estimate a first full year of IVF treatment would cost £850,000.
Patients will be able to access NHS treatment in Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Middlesbrough.
Last night Susan Seenan, co-chair of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign, welcomed the proposed change as a “step in the right direction”.
“We will be delighted if the CCG do start to fund it,” she said.
“It’s way past time they did fund treatment for patients in the York area because for far too long they have been denied access to it.
“One cycle of IVF is a step in the right direction although official guidance is to fund up to three cycles.”
Last month, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said women across Britain were being denied fertility treatment because NHS chiefs were trying to cut costs, leading to “widespread inequality” in access.
Official guidance says the NHS should provide three full cycles of IVF treatment for women aged 18-40 who have failed to get pregnant after two years of trying but around half of areas only offer one.
In Bassetlaw and North East Lincolnshire and in some cases in Hull, three IVF cycles are available in line with national guidance.
Two cycles are provided in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham, but only one in West Yorkshire, Sheffield, the East Riding, Harrogate, Scarborough and Ryedale and North Lincolnshire.