IVF service changes in south Wales spark quality fears

IVF treatment
Image caption The Welsh government say the new service will provide 'excellent facilities'

Concerns have been raised over new plans for the provision of fertility treatment in south Wales.

From April, there will be a single new IVF service, based at the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, and Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

Opponents to changes fear the quality of treatment and waiting times could be affected.

But a Welsh government spokesman said it would be a "strong NHS-based" service with "excellent facilities".

In a further change, the new single service will be managed by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, which will take over responsibility for IVF Wales from Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.

The contract with the clinic which currently provides the service to NHS patients in south west Wales will come to an end in April.

The London Women's Clinic, which is based at Singleton Hospital, in Swansea, is run by a private company but the Welsh government wants to reduce the use of the private sector within the health service.

Critics of the changes told BBC Radio Cymru's current affairs programme, Manylu, say that spending close to £1m on a new unit would be a waste of money.

Paul Davies, Conservative AM for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said health boards were under enough financial pressure.

"I don't think that the NHS can afford this plan. The point is if a private company can offer a service of good quality, and value for money for the taxpayer, I don't see what the problem is," he said.

"I am very concerned that the government is looking to implement these changes because of dogma and ideology."

The new unit in Neath Port Talbot will not be open until September, which has increased concerns this will lead to patients travelling to IVF Wales in Cardiff for treatment.

It emerged last November that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority instructed IVF Wales to limit the number of cycles it provided a week due to concerns about a fall in success rates, staff shortages and samples being accidentally destroyed.

Extra pressure

Peter Bowen Simpkins, medical director of the London Women's Clinic in Swansea, said the changes would put extra pressure on IVF Wales.

"It's going to mean a backlog," he said. "If they don't increase their staff considerably then it is going to put extra pressure on them, considerable extra pressure.

"So in every aspect, patients from west Wales will be disadvantaged. It's an impossible situation, I think."

A Welsh government spokesman said it welcomed Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Cardiff and Vale University Health Boards working together.

"This will put in place a strong NHS-based IVF service covering south and west Wales. The investment which will be made will provide excellent facilities for patients from south west Wales," the spokesman said.

"We are committed to reducing the use of the private sector within the health service in Wales and increasing capacity in the NHS."

The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee, which is responsible for planning IVF services, said: "We are progressing plans to ensure that there is no detrimental impact on patient's treatment - this includes an assessment of the number of patients that will need to be treated in 2012/13 in order to meet the waiting times across the whole of south Wales.

"The location of the service is planned to ensure that we meet the needs of the population of south west Wales and has taken into account the excellent travel links to Neath Port Talbot Hospital."

Manylu is on BBC Radio Cymru at 18:03 GMT on Monday, 30 January.

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