Over the last few months BioNews has covered the developing story that a number of PCTs across England have suspended their fertility services, citing financial constraints as a prominent factor.
PCTs as far as West Sussex and Stockport in Cheshire, all announced their intention to suspend or stop funding for fertility treatment in 2010. This has caused alarm among patient support groups, with organisations such as Infertility Network UK and the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) suggesting that 'many PCTs seem to think of infertility as an undeserving cause'.
In light of these developments, the NHS deputy chief executive, David Flory, last week sent a letter to all PCT commissioners reminding them of these guidelines and highlighting how many trusts had been able to implement the guidelines. He encouraged those who had been unable to achieve this to aim towards this goal. But the NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines are only recommendations and PCTs are under no obligation to provide these services leaving them free to make their own local healthcare provision decisions.
The letter from David Flory also reminded the NHS commissioners that the NICE guidelines were up for review, with the publication of any revisions in 2012.
In 2004, NICE published clinical guidelines for fertility services which included recommendations that up to 'three cycles of IVF should be offered to eligible couples where the woman is aged between 23 and 39 years old'.