Healthcare commissioners are urging people in Birmingham to help them to shape infertility services for the future.
When people have problems with fertility, their local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) fund infertility treatment services, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), to help women become pregnant. In 2012/13, approximately £2.5m was spent on infertility treatment in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.
At present, each CCG has its own policy on infertility treatment and this means services vary according to where people live.
Six CCGs across Birmingham, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton* wish to provide services that are consistent across the area, and are equally accessible to people experiencing fertility problems, with the aim of maximising their chances of becoming pregnant.
They have launched an online survey at http://surveymonkey.com/s/westmids-ivf – with paper copies available at all GP surgeries – and would like to hear from as many people as possible. The survey will run throughout February.
The questions include the following:
- How people feel about offering the same service across Birmingham, Solihull, and the Black Country
- What they think about eligibility criteria for accessing NHS-funded infertility treatment (including age for both men and women, their health, previous fertility treatment and already having living children)
- What they think about the number of cycles of treatment that the CCGs can offer, given the knowledge that limited financial resources may mean the services could be prioritised for those with the highest chance of success.
Dr Clare Elliott, a GP in Harborne and a member of Birmingham South Central CCG’s governing body, chairs a working group on fertility services across all the CCGs involved.
She said: “We are aiming to ensure that policies are fair and consistent instead of the existing 'postcode lottery’ in which the service offered to women varies according to where they live.
“We propose to offer one cycle of assisted conception treatment to eligible patients in Birmingham, Sandwell, Solihull, Wolverhampton and Walsall. For most of these areas, this will mean little change.
“We have clinical evidence from the latest medical techniques, which are used across these areas, that the first cycle of treatment is much more likely to be successful than later cycles.
“However, we recognise that many people will have strong feelings about any proposed change in the funding of infertility treatment.
“Therefore, we are asking patients for their views and we are also talking to many other interested groups to find out what they think.”
*The following CCGs are involved in the Birmingham, Black Country and Solihull IVF funding policy review:
- Birmingham CrossCity
- Birmingham South Central
- Sandwell and West Birmingham