Steve McCabe MP calls on government to Stop the Clock for fertility patients

Steve McCabe MP has urged the Health Secretary to Stop The Clock to safeguard fertility patients’ access to fertility treatments.

Steve McCabe MP (Birmingham Selly Oak) has urged the Health Secretary to Stop The Clock to safeguard fertility patients’ access to fertility treatments.

The Birmingham MP has tabled a Parliamentary Question to the Health Secretary asking what steps the Department is taking to ensure people who no longer meet the age eligibility requirements for NHS funded fertility treatment because of delays due to Covid-19, can still access treatment

Mr McCabe has also launched an Early Day Motion with support from MPs from the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Green Party, calling for urgent action on this important issue.

On 23 March the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) instructed fertility clinics to cease providing services. In May clinics were invited to apply to re-open. Most clinics are now open but many are still operating a reduced service and fertility patients continue to face long delays.

In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland devolved administrations have issued guidance to fertility clinics to ‘stop the clock’ and afford fertility patients several extra months of eligibility to account for the pandemic related delays. This is yet to happen in England.

In England, individual CCGs impose their own upper age limits on fertility funding, which can range from anywhere between 34 years old to 42 for female patients. Due to delays caused by the pandemic, many patients now risk crossing these age thresholds and becoming ineligible for NHS-funded fertility care.

Steve McCabe MP has written to the Chief Executive of Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group seeking urgent clarification on the CCGs policy and urged them to ensure that no fertility patient misses out on vital treatment because of delays caused by the pandemic.

Leaders from the UKs leading pregnancy and fertility charities have also written to the Health Secretary urging him to issue guidance to CCGs to Stop The Clock without delay.

Steve McCabe MP has been campaigning to end the postcode lottery of IVF treatment for some time and in 2019 he introduced his The Access to Fertility Services Bill which sought to:

  •  END the postcode lottery of access to IVF by ensuring that clinical guidelines and quality standards produced by NICE are followed when assessing eligibility 
  • Explicitly prohibits the use of eligibility criteria based on non-clinical factors relating to either partner 
  • Bring the pricing of NHS fertility services under the NHS National Tariff Payment system which would address the vast difference in pricing for a cycle of IVF for different CCGs. 

Steve McCabe MP said:

“Infertility is a medical condition recognised by the World Health Organisation but for too long treatment has been rationed by accountants seeking to trim CCG budgets. No one should miss out on vital treatment because they no longer meet arbitrary age criteria due to delays caused by the pandemic.

“No one should lose out on treatment because of the pandemic, if it was cancer treatment there would be uproar. I am urging the Health Secretary to instruct CCGs to Stop The Clock for fertility patients, it is the right thing to do.”

Marta Jansa Perez, Director of Embryology at British Pregnancy Advisory Service Fertility, said:

“With a second national lockdown approaching, many fertility patients are still feeling the impact of delays from last time. Going through fertility treatment at a time like this is stressful enough without worrying you will run out of time for NHS care due to delays caused by the pandemic. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there have been commitments to “stop the clock” for fertility patients in these unprecedented circumstances – all we ask is the same for patients in England. This National Fertility Week I hope MPs will do all they can to support this.”

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