Jersey politician: ‘If the new IVF funding model includes means testing, I will seek to amend it’

Deputy Lucy Stephenson. (37963240)

IT is a “mistake” not to follow evidence-based UK guidelines when providing funding for IVF treatment, a backbencher has said after politicians backed an amended version of her proposal to replace the current means-tested system.

Deputy Lucy Stephenson, who has personal experience with infertility, lodged a proposal in early April to reform existing funding.

In her proposition, she said the household income threshold to be eligible for IVF funding was set at such a low level – £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.

But States Members last week backed an amendment to her proposition lodged by Health Minister Tom Binet by 28 to 15.

Deputy Binet’s amendment means that new access criteria for treatment will be developed in consultation with the public before any changes to the funding model are made.

While Deputy Stephenson said she was “disappointed” that the amendment was passed, she said it was “really positive” to see 44 States Members vote to improve funding for IVF treatment.

She said: “This sends a clear message of support to Islanders who need or may need fertility treatment in the future.

“It can be a very lonely and anxious time going through treatment or struggling with the disease of infertility and there is still a taboo about talking about it for some, so I hope we helped to break down some barriers.

“The debate was largely very positive, too, with lots of excellent contributions.

“It really felt like Members had engaged with the issue, with some even saying they had learned a lot as well.

“While improving the funding was the priority, it was also my aim to raise awareness, so this was particularly good to hear.”

Despite this, she said she felt that it was a mistake not to follow the NICE guidance. 

She said: “I am particularly concerned that the amendment leaves the option to include some form of means testing, especially as the Health Minister indicated that would be his intention. I now hope that other ministers will be able to convince him otherwise as the finer details are developed in the coming months. If the new model comes forward and does include means testing, I will seek to amend it. Now it’s over to the Health Minister and his team to do the work they have committed to do and bring forward proposals and funding as part of the next Government Plan.

“I have offered to engage with that process if they would find it helpful at any point.”

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