‘Unacceptable’ for fertility patients to be denied medical help

The patient perspective on NHS fertility cuts

Commenting on Fertility Fairness’ 2016 report on access to NHS fertility services in England, Susan Seenan, chief executive of leading patient charity Fertility Network UK said: ‘As  Minister for Public Health Nicola Blackwood has stated, it is unacceptable that all medical help is being denied to fertility patients in some parts of the country. Not being able to have children is a shattering experience in itself without then being denied medical assistance; our recent survey highlighted 90 per cent of people feel depressed and the majority of people facing fertility issues feel out of control, frustrated, helpless, fearful, worried and sad nearly all of the time.’

Fertility patient Jane Ryan (a pseudonym), 29, who lives in one of the areas where all NHS IVF has been cut, said: ‘The day my husband and I found out he had azoospermia was one of the worst days of our lives. Through no fault of our own we are unable to have children naturally; to then find out that our CCG, North East Essex had made the decision to not help us was like a kick in the teeth.

To privately fund one round of IVF in our area costs roughly £7,000. We both work and earn a decent income but the pressure to find £7,000 without getting a loan to be able to start our journey has put a real strain on our relationship.  Does our CCG care about the fact that people may get themselves in debt or lose their houses to be able to have a child? No, it doesn’t.’

Fertility patient Richard Clothier, 39, was only able to access one NHS-funded cycle of IVF with Bedfordshire clinical commissioning group; it was unsuccessful. He says: ‘I cannot over-state the psychological affect we have experienced as a result of our difficulties to conceive. As we anxiously approached our first IVF cycle, we learned that our treatment allocation had been cut from the national recommendation of three rounds down to one – a result of a local public consultation for which we were not aware. This had a significant impact emotionally and financially, as well as increasing our mental dependency on a successful outcome from that single reduced allocation of treatment.’

Key findings from The Impact of Fertility Problems 2016 from Fertility Network UK with Middlesex University London:

  • 90 per cent of respondents reported feeling depressed; 42% suicidal (in 1997 the figure was 20%)
  • 54% had to pay for some or all of their treatment; 10% spending more than £30,000, some up to £100,000 (the average was £11,378; in 1997 the average was £3,466)
  • 74% said their GP did not provide sufficient information
  • 70% reported some detrimental effect on their relationship with their partner
  • 75% noted the lack of a supportive workplace policy
  • 75% would have liked to have counselling if it was free; only 44% did receive counselling and, of these, over half had to fund some of it themselves

The full report Fertility Network UK Survey on The Impact of Fertility Problems, October 2016 by Dr Nicky Payne N.Payne@mdx.ac.uk and Prof Olga van den Akker is available to download at http://fertilitynetworkuk.org/survey-on-the-impact-of-fertility-problems/

There were a total of 865 responses (from predominantly women). The average age of respondents when starting fertility treatment was 32.5; typically respondents had been trying to conceive prior to this for 4.4 years.