COUPLES in Bury will no longer get three IVF cycles after health bosses reduced the number they would fund to just one.

Bury Clinical Commissioning Group has reduced the number of funded cycles to save £170,000 following a six week consultation.

Stuart North, chief officer for NHS Bury CCG, said: “We know that infertility is a very difficult issue for those affected by it and we have spent a great deal of time considering our position and gathering feedback before making a decision.

“We are grateful to every single individual and to the groups that responded to our consultation, and whilst there were no significant areas flagged that the CCG had not already considered, what came through loud and clear was that there was little support to move to zero funded cycles.

“Bringing the CCG in line with the majority of other areas, and in line with the views of our clinical cabinet, the governing body agreed to reduce provision of IVF to one funded cycle for eligible patients from October 2018.”

The CCG has stressed that if a patient has already agreed treatment they will still be funded for up to three cycles.

Prior to the cut, Bury had been one of just four CCGs in the country offering IVF fully compliant with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

From this month any new applications from Bury patients to seek funding for IVF will be capped to one funded cycle.

A cycle of IVF is harvesting one or more eggs from a woman, the best being fertilised and the most viable embryo being implanted. Other viable embryos are frozen. A cycle ends with the birth of a baby or when all viable embryos have been implanted, generally one at a time.

Respondents to the consultation and fertility charities and campaign groups have raised concerns about the mental health impact of cutting the service.

Aileen Feeney, chief executive of Fertility Network UK said: "We are extremely concerned about the effect that reducing access to NHS IVF will have on already distressed patients.

“Infertility is a devastating disease which can cause depression, suicidal feelings, relationship breakdown and social isolation; removing the recommended medical help is cruel and economically short-sighted."

Sarah Norcross, co-chair of Fertility Fairness said: “Fertility Fairness is appalled that Bury health bosses have cut the number of NHS-funded IVF cycles available to patients in the area from three to just one cycle, when the national recommendation is for three full IVF cycles for women under 40. Access to fertility treatment should be dependent on your medical need – and not your postcode or pay packet.

The Bury Times understands the CCG has assessed the impact of potential mental health implications on patients and its services and is confident the current services in the borough would be able to manage fluctuations in demand given the limited number of people in the borough who are affected by infertility.