Friday, August 22, 2008

IVF treatment: Should the NHS pay for it?

Infertile couples to be priority for NHS IVF treatment Infertile couples could soon be offered wider and more consistent treatment on the NHS under the first proposals from the government panel that has the task of ending the IVF postcode lottery. NHS trusts should give IVF a much higher importance when drawing up spending plans, by taking into account the effects of infertility on mental health and general wellbeing, the influential group will say today. (link via timesonline.co.uk) I've posted my thoughts before about IVF treatment being available on the NHS. In my opinion, I don't think the NHS should be offering any IVF treatment. I'm sure it's distressing for women who are experiencing fertility problems but infertility is not a medical condition that presents a threat to health unlike diseases such as cancer. I really don't understand how IVF can be included in NHS spending plans and yet certain cancer drugs are denied to patients because they are too expensive. I realize the NHS* cannot afford to pay for everything and I agree that rationing makes sense. Why then should the NHS provide IVF treatment at all? Thoughts? *The National Health Service (NHS) is the world’s largest publicly funded health service.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks, flighty.

    I know it's an emotional issue and I appreciate that but I think everyone should be concerned about how the NHS trusts draw up spending plans, and what their priorities are.

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  2. Clearly as the population gets older, me included, then the pressure will increase on the NHS.
    I think that it should be made clear what it does, and doesn't, provide and to whom. It seems to becoming a mishmash service in many respects. xx

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  3. Yes, it is becoming a mishmash service and the services it provides are also dependent on where you live - "the postcode lottery" in England or indeed which country (The devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland run their local NHS services separately)you live in, in the UK. This is very unfair since the NHS was set up as a universal health service for the UK. Why should we get a different service depending on where they live?

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  4. I think the agony of infertility absolutely deserves treatment. Sorry to disagree. It is definitely a health issue.

    What about mental health? Much of what we now recognise and treat (expensively) would in the past have been considered not a health problem. What about contraception/abortion? Are those health issues?

    I don't understand the headline though. I thought that "Infertile couples to be priority for NHS IVF treatment" implied that it was 'couples' who should be the priority, and assumed that at the moment single women get some kind of priority treatment. But the article doesn't say that - just that couples should have better access to more IVF treatment. Misleading headline, I think. It should just have said "Infertile couples to be priority for NHS".

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  5. Please don't feel you need to apologize for disagreeing. I know this is a contoversial topic and I don't expect everyone will agree with me plus I always welcome (polite) debate on my blog.

    I understand your point about treating mental health problems and actually that's quite heavily rationed so for example, people who need counseling can't always get it on the NHS and have to go private. And even though fertility problems might cause distress and heartache, I still don't think the NHS should pay for IVF treatment. It is too costly and the NHS cannot afford to pay for everything. In comparison, I don't think offering contraception costs very much and it is a health issue in the sense that it is meant to control population growth as well as help stop the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)’s. And I don't think the NHS pays for abortions on demand but it has to be approved by two doctors and is available for medical reasons.

    I agree that the headline on the article from The Times is misleading.

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  6. We used IVF here in the States while my wife was in residency (& had excellent insurance) to conceive our triplets back in 2003. I'm not an advocate for universal healthcare, but on something that is really considered "elective", if the patient pays some percentage out of pocket, perhaps NHS could pay the remainder. I've heard that population growth in most of Europe is stagnant, so it might make sense for government to encourage reproduction for Brits who can not conceive..I'm guessing that these are generally older citizens who are in a long term committed relationship.

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  7. I understand your view however since the NHS has to be rationed, I still think it's wrong to expect IVF treatment on the NHS. And I find it hard to believe the population growth is severe enough to warrant IVF treatment. It may be stagnant in some parts of Europe but I don't see any sign of a population problem in over-crowded Britain!

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