The Council’s health and social care scrutiny committee has thrown a curve ball to the Tory government over cuts in NHS provision by referring the decision to end the provision of IVF fertility treatment in Croydon to Jeremy Hunt, the health minister.
The Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision to end provision of IVF – making Croydon the only London borough where such treatment is not available on the NHS – will now be suspended, pending the ruling from Hunt, and making the health minister responsible for making the cuts.
This represents the second knock-back for Croydon CCG’s latest round of government-imposed cuts on local health provision, as it seeks to find £36million-worth of “savings” this year, on top of cuts already made.
Last week, Inside Croydon reported how the CCG had been forced to make a U-turn over proposals to withdraw prescriptions of specialist formula milk for babies, after a campaign backed by this website had drawn national coverage and widespread support, including backing from the borough’s two Tory MPs.
The health and social care committee was told at its meeting last month by Dr Agnelo Fernandes, the assistant chair of Croydon CCG, that the withdrawal of IVF treatment in the latest round of cuts was “only the start”.
The council’s health and social care committee has six councillors as members: chair Carole Bonner, Sean Fitzsimons, Kathy Bee and Andrew Pelling from Labour, and Tories Margaret Mead and Andy Stranack.
It is understood that the committee opted to refer the IVF decision to the government by a majority decision, which suggests that it is possible that Mead and Stranack may have followed the party line and been against.
Families in Croydon who need IVF treatment already suffered a form of postcode lottery discrimination, as they have been limited to just a single cycle of treatment through the NHS, while patients in neighbourng boroughs, including Sutton, are allowed up to three. NICE, the National Institute for Health Care Excellence, recommends three cycles for effective use of IVF.
The letter to Jeremy Hunt was sent from the Town Hall this week.
A Croydon Council statement said, “The impact of a decision to remove access to IVF will mean that those in the most deprived, low-income areas will be unable to afford to pay for private treatment and will probably never know if they could have had children.
“The committee says that withdrawal of funding could make people think twice about moving to Croydon, and that a postcode lottery has resulted as people in other London boroughs continue to have access to IVF treatment.”
The average cost for one IVF treatment is almost £9,000; the annual cost of providing IVF at Mayday Hospital is £880,000. According to the council, the CCG “says that if the service remains in place, savings will have to be found elsewhere”.
Bonner, the committee chair, said: “We’re making this referral because of the potential long-term adverse health effects the removal of IVF will have on Croydon residents.
“Not only can infertility result in family breakdown and the ending of relationships, but it often has an impact on the mental health of those affected.
“A comprehensive study was carried out by Middlesex University and the Fertility Network that showed a clear correlation between infertility and depression, with 90 per cent experiencing depression.
“The committee is acutely aware of, and has sympathy for, the CCG’s underfunding and the inconsistencies of the funding formula when compared to similar authorities. However, we feel that the effects of the withdrawal of IVF funding in Croydon are not in the best interests of the borough’s residents.”
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