NHS commissioners in North Yorkshire are to end a controversial ban on funding free infertility treatment for eligible couples.

In recent years the former primary care trust in North Yorkshire refused to fund free in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment to protect existing services, unlike most of the rest of England.

But the new GP-run Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) set up last year has decided it can now afford to provide free IVF treatment to eligible couples.

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This means that women in the area under the age of 40 who are having difficulty conceiving will now be offered up to two cycles of IVF treatment.

Where a couple meet the specified criteria and a woman is under 40 years of age, the CCG will fund up to two full cycles of IVF, and where a woman is between 40 and 42, one full cycle.

Dr George Campbell, lead for planned care at the CCG, said: “We recognise how the old policy may have seemed unfair for local couples, especially when people living in other parts of the country have access to such treatment.

“We understand the impact that infertility can have on people’s lives and IVF is something that we, as the leaders of the local NHS, have been keen to introduce since we were established.

“We feel that the option we have chosen will benefit a significant number of couples in the area whilst still allowing us to maintain healthcare services for all of the local population.”

CCG officials said they will work with its providers to ensure that the service is available as soon as possible.

Details of services available will be published on the CCG’s website in due course. Interested parties can also ring 01609 767600 or e-mail HRWCCG.HRWCCGenquiries@nhs.net Northallerton couple Pete and Paula McBretney, who were refused free infertility treatment by the local NHS said the announcement was “amazing news.”

Paula, 34, said: “With us both having medical conditions affecting our fertility I believe we should have access to medical treatment to help us have a family, we should not have had to go through the heartache that we did.”

Susan Seenan, from Infertility Network UK said: “This is clearly a step in the right direction but anything less than three cycles will still leave some patients unable to access the NHS treatment they deserve.”