CAMPAIGNERS have criticised NHS commissioners in the region after a survey identified North Yorkshire as being one of two areas in England refusing to fund any free IVF treatment for eligible couples.

But NHS officials told The Northern Echo that the policy is under review and the situation could change later this year.

Results of a comprehensive audit of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) by the National Infertility Awareness Campaign (NIAC) shows that patients needing IVF are no better off than they were in 2011.

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NIAC’s 2013 audit – the first to look nationally at CCG commissioning of fertility services - found that 73 per cent fell short of the NICE guideline recommendation of providing three full cycles of treatment to eligible couples.

This is despite the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) updating its guideline on fertility last year, and the transition to a new commissioning system.

Of the 198 CCGs that funded fertility treatment: 49 per cent only offered one cycle, 24 per cent offered two cycles and 24 offered the full recommended three cycles.

Since April 2013, GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have been responsible for commissioning fertility services, replacing the manager-led Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). Although many of these new bodies are currently reviewing their assisted conception policies, many are choosing to continue with the policies, despite updated guideline from NICE earlier this year.

Clare Lewis-Jones, chair of NIAC said: “It is now nearly ten years since the original NICE guideline was published and yet here we are, in 2013, still facing a situation whereby the level of service is determined by postcode.

"Sutton and Merton, along with the CCGs covering the former North Yorkshire and York PCT, have all chosen to follow the policy of their predecessor PCTs, and are consequently offering no funding for IVF."

Responding to the report, Amanda Bloor, chief officer of Harrogate and Rural District CCG said she was “hopeful” that it will be possible to commission IVF treatment from April 2014.

Similarly, Vicky Pleydell, clinical chief officer of Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG said the organisation was reviewing all commissioning decisions –including IVF – as part of their plan for next year.

Simon Cox, chief officer of the Scarborough and Ryedale CCG, said: "The CCG does not currently routinely commission assisted conception services. However we are in the process of reviewing this policy.”