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GP's doubt over NICE plan for free IVF

The controversial NICE proposals on NHS-funded fertility treatment may not be implemented across the country, a GP who helped draw them up has pointed out.

The draft guidance proposes that women aged 23 to 39 with any appropriately diagnosed cause of infertility or three years' undiagnosed infertility should be offered three cycles of in vitro fertilisation on the NHS. Women

under 23 with an 'absolute indication' for IVF would also qualify.

Critics have claimed the plans would cost the NHS up to half a billion pounds a year and add to GP workload.

But Dr Pauline Brimblecombe, a GP in Cambridge and a member of the team that wrote the draft, said the guidelines would not have the same statutory backing as NICE rulings on NHS funding of drugs. Some areas may opt not to implement the recommendations, she added.

'Scotland does fund it and some other countries do, but it's got to go through the Government and then it's up to PCTs,' she said.

Dr Brimblecombe said couples in her area were suffering because of the lack of free treatment. 'It's difficult for patients because it's such an emotional thing,' she said.

A NICE spokeswoman confirmed that the Government had not issued any ruling obliging the NHS to implement institute guidelines. But she added: 'We're clear we expect them to put this into practice and the Department of Health has a commitment to this happening otherwise it wouldn't have asked us to do the work. It clearly believes this is a priority.'

The draft is out for consultation and will be finalised in February.

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