Proposed changes by NHS chiefs mean that IVF and other fertility services could be made more widely available in Milton Keynes.
The change would mean people deemed ineligible could access the service. These include same sex female couples, single females and "any person with a uterus" - including trans men and non-binary people, says the local clinical commissioning group (CCG)
The Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes CCG has this week put out a consultation document about its plan, which would reduce anomalies across the three area.
Currently, people aged under 39 with fertility issues who live in Luton are allowed three free cycles of IVF treatment under the NHS. But people in MK and Beds are allowed only one.
The CCG's proposal is offer one cycle only throughout all three areas - but use the money saved to extend the service to more people.
The proposal reads: "To reduce the current offer of three cycles of IVF to residents in Luton to one cycle for all eligible patients, in line with the current offering in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes, and extend access to the service for same sex female couples, single females and any person with a uterus (including trans men and non-binary people), who are currently unable to access fertility services under existing policies."
A second option would be to bring Beds and MK in line with Luton., where patients aged 39 and under get three treatments and those aged 40 to 42 receive one.
But the CCG admits the first proposal is already its "preferred option ".
The CCG’s current annual spend on fertility services is £895,264. If the number of cycles was aligned to three across BLMK this would increase to at least £1,670,149 - a rise of £774,845.
"As the CCG has a finite financial resource, this would require a review of budget allocation. If the number of cycles were to be aligned to one across BLMK and the groups eligible to access services widened, we do not anticipate any significant change in current costs," states the proposal document.
During 2019/2020, 480 people across BLMK accessed IVF treatment. This is approximately 0.05% of the BLMK population.
Treatments delivered by specialist fertility services include In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), Surgical sperm retrieval methods (SSR), Donor Insemination (DI) , Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) unstimulated, Sperm, embryo and male gonadal tissue cryostorage and replacement techniques , Egg donation (where no other treatment is available) and Blood borne viruses (ICSI plus sperm washing.
The consultation runs from 12 October 2021 to 21 December 2021 and residents are invited to share their thoughts on the proposals via the CCG website here.
Dr Shankari Mahathmakanthi, Clinical Lead for the policy consultation, said: “We’re giving our residents the opportunity to give us their views during this consultation. We want to hear from everyone, whether they have used the services or not, how healthcare budgets are spent is important to all of our residents.”
“I would encourage everyone to make their views heard through the consultation, the BLMK CCG Governing body will then take these views into account when making a final decision in February 2022.”