IVF treatment will be available to couples living in the Harrogate district for the first time since 2010 after the area’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) agreed funding for a range of healthcare provision.
The Harrogate and Rural District CCG agreed the policy change at a meeting in Knaresborough last week (Thursday April 3) and allocated just under £1million toward Mental Healthcare Services
Women up to the age of 42 living in the area will now be offered one cycle of IVF treatment. The CCG are now expecting a ‘surge’ in applications and have capped the amount they will spend at £120,000, enough for around 50 to 60 treatments.
Dr Gareth Roberts, GP and lead for planned care at the CCG, said: “There is a group of people who have been unable to be referred in the last few years and we have no indication of the size of that group so there is the potential for a significant surge of people coming forward, we are in the dark about how many people.
“Once the budget is reached we will return to commissioning by exception and then decide on whether to dedicate any further resource in the year.”
He added: “The unavailability of IVF treatment for couples in the area has been a concern over the past few years and it’s something that we, as the new leaders of the local NHS, have been exploring since we were established. 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.
The CCG’s decision to offer once cycle of IVF still falls short of NICE guidelines which state that women under the age of 40 who have not conceived after two years should be offered three full cycles of IVF.
Dr Roberts added: “We recognise that our new policy on IVF still doesn’t fully comply with NICE guidance, however, I am sure that local people will agree that it’s a positive step in the right direction.”
Not one person had qualified for IVF treatment since the current policy to commission treatment ‘only in exceptional circumstances’ was introduced in 2010.
The CCG said that this was a decision made by the former Primary Care Trust (PCT) because of financial pressures. It is expected that the changes will be implemented from May 1.
Both Prof Jane Metcalf and Mike Webster assistant director of adult and community services at North Yorkshire County Council called for more collaborative working between social services and healthcare. Mr Webster said: “IVF isn’t for everyone and adoption could suit some people.”
Prof Metcalf said: “At the moment if you want to look into adoption you have to stop looking at IVF but for some people adoption could be a better option and they should really be able to look into it. That statistics for kids in care could make you cry, we should make an effort to integrate the services more.”
The CCG also agreed to spend just under £1million more on mental health care provision in the district during 2014/2015. The governing body also agreed to increase the recurrent funding for Autism assessment by £179,000 per year and invest a further £280,000 in the year 2014/15 to help clear the existing waiting list.
Bernard Chalk, the CCG’s chief financial officer said: “The level of referrals in Harrogate is greater than the national average. This is an opportunity to progress the service for local patients and to clear the back log.”
Hazel Griffiths chair of the National Autistic Society Harrogate branch has a 29 year old son, Mark who is autistic. She said the investment in diagnosis was welcomed but that more support is needed.
“The CCG are patting themselves on the back, but they inherited a poor legacy from the old PCT,” she said.
“It is not just about diagnosis but support afterwards but we will keep calling for more support and support for carers.” Mrs Griffiths has also been waiting for Psychological Therapies treatment for three years after suffering from PTSD.
The governing body agreed to spend an additional £250,000 every year on improving access to psychological therapies.
She said: “Hopefully this will help people to get the help they need, previously they couldn’t access that help.”
GP, Dr Rick Sweeney said: “Investing in improving access to psychological therapies should have a benefit for the wider community and get treatment to people at an much earlier stage.”
The CCG agreed to spend £450,000 on urgent mental healthcare annually with the hope of providing a ‘mental health place of safety’ suite for the district.
Currently anyone sectioned under the Mental Health Act in the area is taken to police station where they can be held for up to 72 hours while an assessment is carried out, despite a national code of practice stating: “police stations should be used only on an exceptional basis.”
In 2012, 48 people from the Harrogate District and Wetherby were held at Harrogate Police station after being sectioned under the Mental Health Act and in 2011 50 people were held by police.
A report to the governing body states that other than the police station the next closest suitable locations were in Darlington, Scarborough or Middlesborough and that there is potential to develop space within the Briary Wind at Harrogate District General Hospital.
Mr Chalk said: “This is a great start to make progress on this issue, in total the CCG is to spend the best part of £1million extra to invest in health care provision.
“We should be taking steps toward getting this issue resolved.”