It is the third CCG in the UK to remove NHS funding for IVF, following Essex and Croydon. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG estimates that the move will save £700,000 a year.
Dr Mike Macnamee is CEO of Bourn Hall Fertility Clinic in Cambridge, where the world's first IVF techniques were developed (see Call to remember 'forgotten' IVF pioneer in this week's BioNews). He told Cambridge News: 'It is very sad that the CCG has decided to cut all funding for IVF as we know this will be devastating to many people. Infertility is a recognised disease and impacts the quality of life for those affected and their wider families.'
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that three courses of NHS IVF treatment should be offered to women under the age of 40.
Another concern shared by Dr Macnamee is that reductions in NHS provision would lead to more patients seeking treatment overseas, where treatment is cheaper. Differences in regulation may also make multiple births more likely.
'People think "twins, that's a bonus",' he said. 'But it isn't really, because usually twins or triplets are born early and may have other complications.'
'IVF is more expensive in the UK than other countries because of strict regulations ensuring very high standards of expertise and care. Removing the funding will encourage more people to go overseas, increasing the chance of multiple births…Just three sets of triplets will wipe out any saving,' said Dr Macnamee.
Dr Gary Howsam, chair of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG, told the BBC that it was financially necessary to suspend NHS IVF funding and that the move was 'one of the hardest decisions we've had to take'.
'I think there's a recognition that the NHS funding situation is desperate in our region,' he said. 'The CCG has finite resources to fund a whole range of health services and treatments. We need to save £46.5 million this financial year, and so we have had to review all areas of our spending and to make some difficult decisions.'