COLUMN: Have your say on IVF provision, by Councillor Colleen Harwood

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I am Chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee.

We look at different services across the health sector, in particular at King’s Mill Hospital, Newark Hospital, Mansfield Community Hospital and Bassetlaw Hospital.

We also look at the work of the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs): Mansfield & Ashfield CCG and Doncaster & Bassetlaw CCG.

We were recently alerted to a consultation the CCGs were undertaking in which they were looking at ways to save money.

One of the areas they considered for making savings was in IVF provision on the NHS.

The options included introducing an upper age limit for men; lowering the maximum age for women to have the treatment from 42-40 years; or stopping the offer of IVF on the NHS altogether.

Whilst we agreed in simple terms that the consultation appeared to have been done effectively, we as a committee, and myself as chair, have grave concerns over the decision-making following the consultation and will be following this up.

On the back of the consultation they have decided to:

• Narrow the eligible age range for women from 18-42yrs to 25-34yrs

• Bring in an upper age limit of 40 for men

As many people will know, IVF is often a last resort for couples facing the heartache of infertility, and it can give these couples the chance of achieving their dream of a family.

Thirty-four is a low cut-off when many women spend their twenties and early thirties building their careers and saving to buy their own home.

Because they are doing this, they may already be past the cut-off age for IVF before they even begin to try to start a family and then realise they are struggling to have children.

I do not want the residents of Mansfield and Ashfield facing a potential postcode lottery with IVF, where residents in other parts of Nottinghamshire and the country are offered IVF on the NHS at a higher age than those in this district.

I would urge everyone to participate in future consultations so that their views are heard on this important and life-changing matter.