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One third of GPs think NHS should stop funding IVF

Exclusive A third of GPs believe that the NHS should stop funding IVF treatment for patients with fertility issues, while one in five believe that bariatric surgery should not be funded for obese patients.

The survey of 521 GPs, conducted by the research division of Pulse’s publishers, Cogora, also found that more than half of GPs believed people should be charged for using A&E for excessive alcohol consumption, while two-thirds felt that missed appointments should be charged.

Cogora’s Primary Concerns 2015 report – which, in total, surveyed nearly 1,000 health professionals, including commissioners and nurses – found there was little support for alternative medicines, such as homeopathy, chiropracty and osteopathy. 

It comes as the NHS faces its biggest financial problems for years, which has seen commissioners tasked with saving £22bn over the next five years by NHS England and the Government.

A Pulse investigation has already revealed that CCGs across the country are embarking on rationing drives, including targeting funding for vasectomies, hearing aids and IVF,despite NICE stepping in to reprimand CCGs.

Meanwhile, some commissioners are increasing the thresholds for bariatric surgery in defiance of NICE guidelines.

NICE’s most recent guidelines, published in 2014, recommended a lowering in the threshold for referral for bariatric surgery to a BMI of 30 kg/m2 for patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, or to appropriately lower BMIs in black or ethnic minority patients in line with separate public health guidance.

A significant number of GPs have given their support to IVF treatment being stopped on the NHS, with 34% calling for commissioners to withdraw funding, compared with 26% of the 291 nurses surveyed.

One female GP, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘It is very complex, but personally I don’t think infertility is a disease. I appreciate for some people it is and it’s very stressful. But it concerns me that people feel that having a child is a right.’

One in five GPs – 21% – said they believed that funding should be stopped for bariatric surgery for obese patients.

Dr Ahmed Nana, a GP in Leicester told Pulse: ‘In these times, where we’re basically rationing our resources you have to decide what we put money into. And the way funding is at the moment larger resources should go to areas like cancer care and heart disease, rather than bariatric surgery.

‘Clinically it has benefits as an intervention, but at present certain things we might have to stop providing because the NHS can’t afford them at present.’

But Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC’s prescribing committee, said: ‘When there is pressure on what you might call basic services, it’s fairly understandable that people look to things that aren’t life or limb and think “well that should be cut”.

’But the evidence to improvement to individuals from bariatric of surgery is quite substantial, we do many things that are less effective than bariatric surgery.’

On the issue of IVF, he added: ‘If you look at the unhappiness, distress and indeed depression that can come from having difficulty starting families, it is difficult to say they should not receive treatment.’