Kingston patients concerned about possible changes to IVF services

Kingston’s Patient Participation Group (PPG) has expressed its concerns over potential decommissioning of IVF and similar fertility services.

Patient Participation Groups have become a contractual requirement for healthcare practices in England since April 2016. The aim of these groups is to work with a local practice to improve the quality of the services it offers, while also informing the practice of the possible needs of the local population. Any local healthcare changes, like the ones proposed in Kingston, have to go through such a group.

Kingston’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), responsible for providing healthcare services in the area, has proposed to decommission IVF and similar fertility services as part of its “Choosing wisely” initiative. This potential change did not sit well with Kingston’s PPG

“I’m really worried about the IVF issue. If I recall my 30 or 40 years as a doctor, meeting a woman who wanted to have a baby, and could not have one, was one of the most harrowing experiences. This is not a simple issue of money: it is often a purpose of life,” said Mike D’Souza, member of Kingston’s PPG.

Another issue raised concerned the cost of the treatment and its accessibility to the general public, should Kingston’s CCG decommission it.

“IVF is going to be completely beyond the purse of a group of the population, because it’s so expensive, it’s not like buying your own gluten-free food,” said Jo Boxer, member of Kingston’s PPG.

Hannah Keates, responsible for patient and public engagement within the Kingston’s CCG, named IVF “the most contentious issue going by the public feedback”.

Potential decommissioning of the IVF was not the only change proposed. Other changes included stopping free prescriptions of self-care medications (available for low prices over-the-counter), gluten-free food, baby milks, vitamin D and also cutting on support for “surgery-ready” patients.

The aim of proposed changes is to save the local NHS funds on prescriptions. Cathryn MacDermott, director of primary care and planning, said the funds would not be diverted to another service, like the mental health services.

Individual funding requests would still be available to patients through their clinicians, where the latter believes there are exceptional circumstances to make the application. These requests may include conditions for which the CCG doesn’t fund or does not have an agreed policy.

The results will be discussed by the Kingston Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel on May 23rd, after that they will go to the Kingston’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee. You can have your say on the proposed changes here.

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