All 8 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in Lancashire and South Cumbria have passed an updated and revised assisted conception services policy, which includes treatments like IVF (in vitro fertilisation). This follows a 12-week consultation period, during which local people were asked for their views on the provision of assisted conception services. The policy, which identifies the criteria patients must meet before they receive these services, ensures that access to these services will be the same for all residents of Lancashire and South Cumbria, regardless of their location.
Several changes within the revised policy extend the service to allow access to wider patient groups than before. This includes increasing the upper age limit for women and ensuring same sex female couples, single women and the transgender community have equity of access. In order to fund these changes within the existing budget, there will be a change to the number of units available (usually referred to as cycles).
Under the revised policy therefore, the number of units has been reduced from 2 units to 1 unit. A new definition of a unit will be used to permit the use of all the embryos created, however many that may be, until a live birth is achieved.
The access and treatment criteria within the revised policy will apply to new referrals to the assisted conception service. All patients who have already been referred to a specialist provider of assisted conception services will continue to receive the level of service in place when their referral was made.
The revised policy went through a detailed and systematic development process which included both clinical and public consultations. The policy was ratified at the Joint Committee of Clinical Commissioning Group (JCCCG) on 1 November and is now going through an implementation phase.
Andy Curran, Executive Medical Director for Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria, said:
“Until now each CCG area of Lancashire and South Cumbria had different access criteria for assisted conception services. It was important to ensure equal access for people across our whole geography. We asked local people, clinicians and other stakeholders what they thought and ensured the revised policy enabled access to groups identified in NICE guidance. We expect the increased access to wider patient groups in the new policy will be funded within the existing budget.”