IVF delays due to NHS-only policy, fertility expert claims

Peter Bowen-Simpkins said the decision to end the contract with his Swansea clinic was purely ideological

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A fertility expert claims women seeking IVF treatment are suffering delays because the Welsh government stopped funding for a private clinic.

Peter Bowen-Simpkins said the decision to end the contract with his Swansea clinic was purely ideological.

Patients are waiting 18 months for the NHS service at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales, known as IVF Wales.

But the Welsh government says it is supporting work to build more capacity for IVF services.

A new NHS IVF unit is due to open in Port Talbot in the spring, however it will be 18 months later than planned.

Start Quote

It feels to me like a totalitarian state who say this is what we are going to do despite the outcome”

End Quote Peter Bowen-Simpkins London Women's Clinic

In the meantime, some patients have been offered earlier treatment at NHS units in Bristol, which has cost the Welsh NHS more than £500,000.

A decision to end the use of private providers in the NHS came from the previous Labour-Plaid coalition government.

As a result, the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) - the NHS body that plans specialist treatments - did not renew a contract with London Women's Clinic (LWC) in Swansea.

Two years after the contract with LWC came to an end, a new NHS IVF unit at Neath Port Talbot hospital is due to open in April, but it is 18 months later than planned.

'Crazy'

LWC medical director Peter Bowen-Simpkins said the "crazy" decision to end the contract with the company's Swansea clinic was purely ideological.

Analysis

We need to turn the clock back to get a proper timeline on this.

Up until March 2011 women, mainly in west Wales, were receiving private treatment on the NHS at the London Women's Clinic (LWC) in Swansea. The previous Welsh government decided to end all private involvement in the NHS and as a consequence LWC's funding came to an end.

Over £1m was invested in a new IVF facility at Neath Port Talbot Hospital to take its place. It was supposed to open in autumn 2011 so there would only have been a six month gap between the private contract coming to an end and the new NHS service being up an running.

But it's still not open.

The clinic's medical director, Peter Bowen-Simpkins, says the decision to discontinue funding before the new NHS service was open is based purely on ideology.

IVF Wales treating patients from Cardiff and the Vale they are now having to treat women from Abertawe Bro Morgannwg.

This has cost the NHS over £500,000.

He said: "It's appalling that the assembly can disadvantage the very people it's supposed to be supporting.

"As a consequence of what has happened we've gained because people have been forced into the private sector because of the NHS.

"I feel very strongly that the Welsh assembly made a decision that has actually produced a waiting list which is about two years whereas before it was about six weeks.

"It's costing them a lot more and the results are likely to be worse because patients are getting older."

Mr Bowen-Simpkins went on: "It feels to me like a totalitarian state who say 'this is what we are going to do despite the outcome'.

"The very people who probably have supported the government are the ones who are going to be disadvantaged, the ones who can't afford it (private treatment) and are going to have to travel a very long way."

Figures up to November 2012 show 210 women from south and west Wales have been treated by North Bristol NHS trust and a further 90 were waiting for treatment. This has cost the Welsh NHS more than £500,000.

LWC claims it was saving taxpayers' money as the amount it received was less than was given to IVF Wales for comparable treatment.

WHSSC said the decision was not based on money and that it is working with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board to make sure the facility at Neath Port Talbot will open in the spring.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "Whilst we understand the London Women's Clinic motive, as a private company who wish to generate a profit, the Welsh government is clear in its support of the work being done to build more capacity for IVF services in NHS Wales."

The Welsh government expects the Neath Port Talbot facility to be ready to treat patients from April, subject to accreditation from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

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