The Minister for Public Health and Sport wrote to the Health and Sport Committee on 22 June 2016 highlighting the publication of the National Infertility Group Report and the Scottish Government’s confirmation it will accept all but one of the report’s recommendations.
As a Committee we recognise the stress and anxiety that can be faced by those struggling to conceive and that IVF treatment can provide an opportunity to help people have a child. We therefore welcome the announcement of forthcoming changes to access criteria for IVF treatment, including increasing the number of IVF cycles on the NHS from two to three and allowing access to couples where one partner does not have a biological child.
We understand from the Minister’s letter that a sustainable implementation plan is being produced with the four centres that provide NHS IVF. We have written to the Minister for assurances regarding the future funding of fertility services. As a Committee we are also keen to gain further insight into the financial implications for individual health boards.
The National Infertility Group Report details that at present 60% of fertility services are funded by NHS boards, with the rest subsidised by the Scottish Government. The report states the likely impact of each change to the access criteria will be an increase in volume of usage by at least 10-15%. The Group called for a strategic decision to be made on the future funding level for fertility services to ensure sustainability of the current service before any other improvements to the service are introduced.
The report also details some NHS boards are not currently investing appropriate amounts in IVF services and that to ensure the service remains equitable across Scotland they will have to increase funding and continue to do so annually. The report says that “local NHS board investment continues to be a crucial factor in IVF funding, and could be a barrier to widening access criteria”.
The National Infertility Group report also details that whilst there is capacity to increase activity in the four provider centres, there needs to be further investment in staff and equipment to enable this. There may also continue to be a further reduction in the coming years in self-funding patients. If the Scottish Government expects NHS boards to meet the additional costs required to increase capacity for IVF treatment from their existing budgets how would you find this additional funding? Would you expect further funding from the Scottish Government to be made available specifically for this purpose, and if so at what level?
The Minister for Public Health and Sport wrote to the Committee on 22 June 2016 highlighting the publication of the National Infertility Group Report and the Committee responded on 15 July.
Letter from the Covener to the Minister for Public Health and Sport (105KB pdf)
The Minister responded to the Committee on 29 August.
Letter from the Minister for Public Health and Sport (114KB pdf)
On 24 March 2017 the Committee received an update from the Minister for Public Health and Sport.
The Committee also wrote to all Scottish NHS boards asking for their comments on the proposed changes. The responses can be read below: