More than a dozen childless Harrogate couples will receive IVF treatment on the NHS after a policy overhaul.
Not one couple had been eligible under the old commissioning regulations which were in place for five years, however the floodgates were opened on August 1 and so far 20 couples have applied for treatment.
Fourteen couples have been told they are eligible to receive IVF on the NHS, increasing their chance of conceiving and starting a family.
Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decided to change its policy on IVF in April, offering one cycle of IVF to infertile couples if the woman is aged between 18 and 42, has had no previous IVF treatment and the couple have no other children.
Dr Bruce Willoughby from Harrogate and Rural District CCG said: “The new policy was decided upon in April though it did not begin until August 1. It took around four months to develop the pathway and we have £120,000 of funding for 2014/15.
“The governing body recognised it was something we wanted to do. The good news is that couples will now have access to IVF.”
One cycle of IVF costs the NHS £3,500 on average, though costs can differ greatly from case to case. Harrogate and Rural District CCG have therefore allocated enough funding for around 34 couples, though the governing body has indicated in the past that it would be willing to review budgets if money ran out.
Dr Willoughby added: “As for some time couples have been unable to apply we clearly want to make sure that those people who have waited for this, get treatment right at the start.
“We do expect people to come forward but it is difficult to predict how many. Each GP practice will have its own few couples it is aware of and I would urge any couples needing help to speak to their GP about this.”
The eligibility criteria has been criticised by Infertility Network UK which says it does not go far enough.
The criteria still falls short of NHS England’s NICE guidelines which state that women up to the age of 42 should be offered up to three cycles of IVF on the NHS.
Susan Seenan, chief executive of Infertility Network UK said: “It does not go far enough, absolutely not. There is a national guidance which is being ignored.
“It is a step in the right direction and at least now they are offering something but it should be three, the CGG is not NICE compliant and is doing a disservice to its patients.
“It should not be up to the commissioners to decide if the treatment should be offered, that decision has already been made by NICE.”
Have you been affected? Email Laura.Hill@jpress.co.uk