IVF treatment in Peterborough and the rest of Cambridgeshire is set to be cut despite overwhelming opposition to the plans.
The specialist fertility service is to be removed by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), barring two exceptions, until at least April 2019 despite more than 80 per cent of respondents to a public consultation opposing the cost-cutting measure.
In total, nearly 797 people formally opposed the plans, while a petition of 2,278 was also handed in. Moreover, none of the organisations which took part in the consultation supported the measure, with many suggesting that the CCG continue to fund one round of IVF.
However, the CCG's governing body is set to press ahead with its decision to cut all IVF treatment except for patients with cancer or another disease which is likely to make them infertile, or if they have a chronic viral infection.
Papers released ahead of its meeting at the Future Business Centre at the ABAX Stadium in Peterborough on Tuesday (September 5) recommend that the governing body cut IVF but review the decision in 2019.
The move will save the body, which commissions health services in the county, £700,000 a year as it bids to tackle a multi-million pound deficit.
The papers state: "As part of discussions about the CCG’s financial challenges, GP and clinical leaders came to the difficult conclusion that, when looking at the prioritisation of funds, specialist fertility treatments was an area that should be reviewed. The CCG has finite resources to fund a whole range of health services and treatments."
The plan to remove IVF treatment was first raised in March this year but was quickly denounced by Peterborough City Council's health scrutiny committee which raised its objections.
The consultation also shows opposition from Sandie Smith, CEO of Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, who wrote: "It is worrying that these proposals place further local policy restrictions on clinicians’ ability to refer and provide a cost-effective treatment that is in line with current national guidance.
"It appears that removing NHS funded IVF may not save the money calculated because of the potential offset by increased multiple births and demand for mental health services. There may be cheaper ways of delivering it rather than cutting IVF completely."
Councillor Richard Johnson, chair of the Cambridge Local Health Partnership, warned of a postcode lottery, writing: "I’m sure that in different circumstances the CCG might take a different stance in removing a service that offers clinical value at a cost that is relatively small, at £700k, in terms of the overall £1.4 billion budget that the CCG has its disposal.
"The Cambridge Local Health Partnership agreed that the guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence that states that the provision of three full cycles of IVF is both clinically and cost effective for women under 40, should be accepted and implemented locally.
"This is something that a number of CCGs have done, albeit they may not be facing the same degree of financial challenge. The existing level of service, consisting of one cycle of IVF, is already at a minimum acceptable level in my opinion."
Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner also wrote in to say it would be better to keep one round of IVF.
The consultation shows nearly 83 per cent of respondents understood why the CCG was planning to remove specialist fertility services, but only 27 per cent agreed with the exceptions.
In 2015/6 approximately 200 people in Cambridgeshire accessed IVF treatment at a cost of more than £1 million.
The final decision on whether to cut IVF treatment or not will be made by the governing body from 3.30pm at Tuesday's meeting.