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Delays are now mounting for fertility treatment

Survey reveals concerns of couples desperate to start families

01 October, 2021 — By Tom Foot

COUPLES have warned of unacceptable delays in fertility treatment because of Covid and are calling for a series of changes to “cruel” criteria for NHS funding.

A policy review by NHS chiefs now says that rules barring applicants from applying until they have had three miscarriages should be torn up and greater sensitivity is needed throughout the process.

One woman, responding to a survey carried out by the North London Central Clinical Commissioning Group (NLC CCG), said: “We are not a number. We are people and we are scared. When we ask for help to have a baby we are already a little bit broken, but we are also very brave and very determined…

“Time is not on our side, diagnosis and decisions about treatment needs to be made quickly.”

Another woman added that the three miscarriages rule was “beyond cruel and should be revised”.

The NHS fertility system has been placed under review by NLC CCG after a series of treatment “inequalities” between north London boroughs were exposed.

Camden women can get three rounds of IVF treatment on the NHS, while Islington residents get two. Just one round is offered to those in Enfield, Haringey and Barnet.

Women, meanwhile, have been left waiting for one year for an initial consultation and they have had unnecessary procedures because of delayed sperm count checks for men.

The review is aiming to create a single policy for the five boroughs managed by the NLC CCG.

Results of a survey have been published in a report ahead of a shake-up expected next year.

The impact of Covid on hospitals caused huge delays to tens of thousands of non-emergency hospital appointments in Camden.

The report also warned more needed to be done to tackle the stigma of fertility treatment in some cultures, where the problem is always “seen to be with the women”.

One woman responding to the survey said: “Fertility is not always the women’s fault as I know of an occasion when the man was the problem – they both went for tests in the NHS – she couldn’t read or write English – he told her she was the problem… [later] someone read the letter to her and told her that he had the problem.”

Statistics show that there are 62,501 women aged 18-45 in Camden with 284 undergoing fertility treatment of some kind. Seventy-seven are  funded by the NHS.

Of the Camden fertility patients, 147 are enrolled in IVF schemes at University College London Hospitals.

The cost of funding three rounds of IVF in Camden for all patients in total is £841,000 annually. This is far higher than the £350,000 spent in Enfield, where patients get just one cycle.

The report said NLC CCG wants to make a fair single policy for all the five boroughs adding there is a “strong feeling” the new NLC service should “level-up” the other boroughs rather than cut back the provision in Camden.

The report added that one in 10 people in Camden are clinically obese, which, along with smoking, can sometimes be a cause of infertility.

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