Jersey States agree to IVF funding reform

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MEANS-tested financial support for IVF treatment will be replaced and a consultation launched on what changes to make to the “archaic” funding model, after States Members backed an amended proposition yesterday.

Deputy Lucy Stephenson, who has personal experience with infertility and is a founding governor of fertility support charity Tiny Seeds, lodged a proposal in early April to reform existing funding, arguing that the current arrangement was “outdated”.

In her proposition, she said the threshold for funding was set at such a low level at £40,795 that no one had ever qualified for it.

Deputy Stephenson instead said the Island should adopt UK clinical guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which currently recommends funding three full cycles of IVF for women under 40, or one full cycle for those aged 40–42.

During the debate, she cited recent statistics from the Births and Breastfeeding Profile report that showed that the proportion of women having a baby in their 20s has nearly halved in recent years.

But yesterday in the States, politicians backed an amendment lodged by Health Minister Tom Binet by 28 to 15, with three abstentions, as politicians largely aligned along government and backbench lines.

Deputy Binet argued that new criteria related to financial support for IVF treatment should be developed in consultation with the public before any changes to the funding model were made, but within his amendment he indicated his support for replacing the means-tested model.

Deputy Binet said: “In so doing, we will ensure that any IVF service funded by the government accords with good clinical standards, even if it does not provide up to three publicly funded IVF cycles for all people.”

Deputy Binet added that this would help manage costs, with the Health Department currently facing an £18m shortfall.

But Deputy Stephenson questioned why the government wanted to “create more work for itself”.

“There is no need for further delays, especially where every month does count for those needing treatment,” she said.

And Deputy Louise Doublet said: “The financial overspends in the health service will get much, much worse if we do not have a working population to support the health service.”

Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham said he was also in favour of removing the “archaic” means-tested model but said the amendment would not delay the proposal.

Members supported the proposition by 44 to one (Deputy Karen Wilson), with Deputy Tom Coles abstaining.

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