PATIENTS in north Essex could soon be eligible to receive two free rounds of IVF treatment as health bosses look set to do a U-turn five years after a controversial decision to withdraw treatment.

In 2015, North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decided to withdraw free IVF for couples, except in exceptional circumstances.

The cost-cutting move sparked outrage among couples struggling to conceive.

Across the UK only three authorities offer the recommended three cycles of IVF free, with others offering a reduced service or none at all.

In August, the CCG said the policy would be reviewed again after a new management team was set up with two CCGs in Suffolk.

The West Suffolk and Ipswich and East Suffolk CCGs offer up to two cycles for couples who are aged under 40.

The CCG has now confirmed it will be proposing two cycles of IVF is made available to patients in north east Essex from April 1.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

The proposal will be subject to a consultation which is due to begin shortly.

It would then need to be ratified by the CCG’s governing body before being approved.

Women who are aged 40 to 42 in Suffolk are also given one free cycle of IVF. It is not yet known if this will be replicated in north east Essex.

A spokesman for the CCG said: “The three clinical commissioning groups within the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System are currently in the process of reviewing their clinical threshold policies, one of which relates to the provision of IVF treatment.

“IVF treatment is not currently available to patients living in the NHS north east Essex CCG area.

“We are proposing that two cycles of IVF treatment be made available to patients in north east Essex who meet the necessary criteria from April 1 to bring us into line with the treatment available to patients elsewhere in the ICS.

“We will shortly be asking residents for their views about this proposal and 63 other clinical policies.

“Subject to the responses received from members of the public, the proposal will need to be ratified by the CCG’s governing body before it becomes policy.”

Sarah Norcross, director of fertility charity Progress Educational Trust, said the charity welcomed the news.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

She said: “For fertility patients in the region, who have been denied NHS-funded IVF for nearly half a decade, this announcement provides a glimmer of hope, though this news will, sadly, come too late for some.

“North East Essex has said it is considering providing two IVF cycles for women under 40, rather than the recommended three and has not provided any information on whether women aged 40 to 42 will be able to access the recommended one IVF cycle.

“Women with fertility problems have been waiting nearly five years to access medical help and some of those women may now be aged 40 to 42. It would be unspeakably cruel to refuse NHS fertility treatment to them now.”

The Gazette asked the CCG how much money it had saved in the five years since the service was withdrawn and if women aged 40-42 would receive one free cycle.