Fertility campaigners are celebrating after one of the few NHS trusts not to offer IVF treatment is poised to reverse its decision.
North East Essex Clinic Commissioning Group (CCG) cut the service, which helps women struggling to conceive, in 2015, citing financial pressures.
ICYMI News has learned IVF will now be offered by the group from April 1 – subject to sign-off by the CCG’s board.
A spokesperson told ICYMI News: “NEECCG hasn’t previously offered IVF, but will be doing so from April 1 to bring it into line with the two other CCGs in its integrated care system (ICS) area – the NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk CCGs.”
North East Essex is one of 5 CCGs not to provide the fertility treatment, something which Health Minister Caroline Dinenage has described as “unacceptable”.
Dinenage wrote to the those CCGs in November urging them to rethink their decisions, but the Department of Health did not seem to be aware that North East Essex was planning to reverse the cuts to service.
When asked by ICYMI News about any responses to her letter, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “The department is currently liaising with the five CCGs on their responses to the letter from the Minster of State for Care before deciding on next steps.”
Sarah Norcross, director of fertility charity Progress Educational Trust, said patients would be “overjoyed” at the news after the CCG spent “nearly half a decade…denying infertile couples medical help”.
She added: “North East Essex CCG’s change of heart, which comes on the heels of Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage’s strongly-worded letter to those CCGs who do not provide any NHS fertility treatment, raises the hope that CCGs are beginning to address England’s unacceptable IVF postcode lottery.
“PET urges the four CCGs who still refuse to provide NHS fertility treatment – Mid Essex, Basildon & Brentwood, Croydon and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – to follow suit and restore NHS IVF now.
“For the 1 in 6 couples affected by infertility the clock is ticking: delays not only add to the deep distress infertile couples experience, they may also remove a couple’s chances of ever becoming parents.”
It is believed that North East Essex CCG, which covers the towns of Colchester and Clacton, will align with the IVF provision offered by its neighbouring trusts, and will offer two fresh cycles of treatment to those aged 23 to 40, and one fresh cycle to those aged 40 to 42.
Emma Edey, 40, from Colchester, was one of those denied the chance to access IVF treatment on the NHS because of where she lived.
Along with her husband, Lee, Emma was told in 2015 she had missed the deadline for undergoing the procedure.
When ICYMI News told her about North East Essex CCG’s decision to reintroduce the service, she was delighted.
“It’s going to make so many people happy,” she said, adding: “Even if they don’t get a child at the end of it, it’s the opportunity that matters, the chance to have at least one cycle of treatment.”
Emma said the fight to get IVF – which is open to friends who live just miles away but under a different NHS group – had taken a toll on her mental health.
She said: “I am going to fight, fight, fight. It’s crazy that this happened and we can’t see how they have got away with it.
“I’m worried that they’ve made our mental health so bad that they are going to use that as an excuse not to give to us.
“Nobody throughout the whole process has asked how we feel.”
Colchester MP Will Quince also welcomed the news, and said: “Having campaigned for IVF treatment to be available in North Essex I very much welcome this decision.
“I knew following my meeting and correspondence with the NEECCG Chief Executive that he was receptive to the argument and thank him for listening.”
While North East Essex CCG is bringing back IVF treatment, the other groups not offering the service are standing firm.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG said there was no change to its position, while the CCGS of Croydon, Mid Essex, and Basildon & Brentwood did not provide a comment.
UPDATE: Since this story was published, North East Essex CCG has contacted ICYMI News to clarify its statement, as reinstating IVF provision still needs to be rubber-stamped by the Trust’s board. The article has therefore been updated to reflect this.