The fertility authority, the HFEA has £3.4million of unspent funds – while thousands of women are being refused IVF on the NHS because it is too expensive. Figures reveal the surplus money built up by the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority could pay for 850 women to have treatment.
The funds have been gradually accumulated from the £75 fee paid by the NHS and private clinics to the HFEA every time a woman has treatment. Campaigners have demanded the organisation gives the money back to the dozens of NHS trusts which are refusing women IVF because they are so short of money.
Last year a report by MPs found three quarters of primary care trusts are denying women treatment and not funding the three courses recommended by the health watchdog NICE.
This includes five PCTs which refuse to pay for IVF altogether while many others reject women deemed too fat, thin, old or young. As a result, couples desperate for children are having to go to private clinics and take out loans or re-mortgage their homes to cover the hefty fees.
Last year 45,000 women underwent IVF treatment, with 60 per cent having to pay for it privately. One cycle of IVF can cost between £4,000 and £8,000 as clinics charge vast fees for ‘extras’, including up to £200 for a consultation and as much as £1,000 for freezing and storing embryos.
The surplus, the equivalent to half of the organisation’s annual budget, could pay for about 850 women to have IVF at a cost of £4,000 a treatment. Clare Lewis-Jones of the charity Infertility UK, said: ‘We believe the funds built up by the HFEA should be re-invested back into the area which they regulate and that infertility patients should in some way benefit from this excess.’
The HFEA has insisted that the money was accumulated through ‘prudent’ budgeting, and said it would be too ‘complex’ to try to give the money back to cash-strapped NHS trusts. The figures were obtained by the Health Service Journal.
A poll in December revealed that a quarter of women having IVF said that they have to take out high-interest loans, reach their credit card limit and even re-mortgage their homes for a chance to realise their dream of motherhood.
A third of the 2,500 British women questioned by Red Magazine for its annual fertility report had spent more than £20,000. Success rates are just 32 per cent for women under 35, falling rapidly with age to just 1.5 per cent for those over 45. This means that many are being forced to fork out for three or more cycles of treatment.
Dr Allan Pacey, of the British Fertility Society, said: ‘This comes at a time when NHS funding for infertility treatment such as IVF has been cut in many parts of the country as a cost cutting measure, and both hospital and household budgets are feeling the squeeze.
‘The £3.4million is a significant sum of money and by a conservative estimate would fund over 850 cycles of IVF treatment. ‘The BFS believes it is inappropriate for the regulator to amass such a sum, which by its own admission is “unusually large”. ‘We will be writing to the HFEA chief executive to ask for an explanation.’
A spokesman from the HFEA said: ‘Previously, we have agreed with the department not to pursue the possibility of returning the money to clinics due to the complex principles and practicalities that would entail.
‘We developed proposals to enhance our capabilities in three ways, to spend the surplus money “wisely”, over three years. ‘The Department of Health have told us that they cannot agree to this for the next financial year, and so we await the department’s alternative suggestions.’
Article: February 2012 www.dailymail.co.uk
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