A CHESHIRE health trust is considering whether to begin offering IVF on the NHS after it withdrew funding for the fertility treatment.
The controversial decision was made by Warrington Primary Care Trust (PCT) in August last year, but the treatment could now be reinstated if health chiefs agree.
The trust had financial problems last year and the original decision was made to help reduce spending. The borough did send around 80 couples a year to Liverpool Women’s Hospital for the treatment before the suspension.
The trust has put forward four options: to continue with the suspension, to defer the decision until new guidelines are released, to review again in 12 months or to offer one cycle, with a review next year. The fourth option is the preferred option.
Board papers read: “The Resource Utilisation Panel and Warrington Health Consortium Board are aware that this is a highly sensitive area with potential for public concern.
“However, difficult decisions have to be made to ensure financial balance and sustainability.”
The number of cycles funded by primary care trusts varies across the country.
Three is recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), but most Merseyside authorities only offer two.
NHS Stockport and NHS Bury also suspended treatment as a result of cost pressures last year.
A letter from the audit commission to the PCT reveals that the trust was having problems meeting financial savings targets. In August it was £4.5m behind target, and the letter said there was a “significant challenge to achieve financial balance”.
But a trust spokeswoman for NHS Warrington said this had now been clawed back.
She added that the trust’s Clinical Advisory Panel met in July to discuss IVF. She said: “The panel developed four options, which were shared with Warrington LINKS, for further consideration.
“The PCT sought the opinion of Warrington Borough Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on the four options at the meeting held on September 29.
“The next stage is that the PCT will decide its preferred option at the next formal Warrington Health Consortium board meeting on November 9. This preferred option will then go to the next available NHS Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral Board, which is the statutory body for the final decision.”
Under the original suspension, special cases could still be made by GPs, and patients who had already begun treatment were not affected.