NHS is wrong to deny us second round of IVF, says Bristol woman
A WOMAN who has suffered nine miscarriages and one stillbirth has made a formal complaint against the NHS's decision not to fund another cycle of IVF.
For 14 years, Deborah Harris has been trying to have a child and, as well as the miscarriages, suffered two ectopic pregnancies – where the baby forms outside the womb – in that time.
Earlier this year, Mrs Harris and her husband Stephen found out that their dream of completing their family with the child they have longed for may never come true, as they were denied a second round of IVF treatment on the NHS.
The provision of IVF treatment varies across the country, with some NHS trusts offering three rounds, while others, including Bristol, offer just one. Mrs Harris' appeal against Bristol PCT's decision was recently turned down.
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The 39-year-old has now made a formal complaint to the Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS).
Mrs Harris says that paperwork proves her appeal was refused by director of commissioning Deborah Lee before receiving a letter from her doctor supporting the appeal – an allegation the Bristol PCT denies.
Mrs Harris said: "On February 15, paperwork shows that the appeal hearing was refused. But a letter was stamped as being received by the trust two days later and a return letter to my doctor stated that it had been passed to the director of commissioning for consideration as part of the appeal.
"This is in spite of the fact that the decision had been made the day before my doctor's letter was received. This letter was clearly not taken into account into the decision whether or not to grant an appeal, as it had not been received at the time the decision was made.
"So much for a proper process."
IVF involves surgically removing an egg from the woman's ovaries and fertilising it with sperm in a laboratory.
The fertilised egg, or embryo, is then placed back into the woman's womb to grow and develop.
Julie Hendry, communications manager for NHS Bristol, said: "We can confirm that both the letter from Mrs Harris and the letter from her GP were considered by the PCT director of commissioning. A reply confirming that the GP's letter has been included in the review was sent out to the patient.
"In line with our written procedures, all requests for an appeal against a refusal to provide exceptional funding are considered by a PCT director of commissioning.
"It is common for multiple requests to be made for an appeal on a specific case and when this happens the file is reconsidered in full by the director before a final decision is made."
Two years ago, Mr and Mrs Harris, of Horfield, believed their long journey to having a baby had come to an end, when Mrs Harris fell pregnant after IVF treatment.
All seemed well and their baby boy was due on October 23.
But when Mrs Harris went into labour 12 days early, a scan revealed the baby had no heartbeat.
Later that day she gave birth to a baby boy, who the couple named Charlie. Two weeks later the couple, of Francombe Road, held a funeral for their little boy – on the day he was due to have been born.
Mrs Harris' request for a second round of IVF has been backed by a leading fertility doctor, a midwife and GP.
At 39 years old – the cut-off age for IVF on the NHS – Mrs Harris has less than one year to go ahead with treatment if her appeal is successful. The couple recently took out a loan to fund a private cycle which was unsuccessful.
She said: "We couldn't wait for the PCT to make a decision but, unfortunately, it didn't work and we can't afford to take out another loan."
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) published guidelines in 2004 recommending that suitable couples receive up to three cycles of IVF treatment on the NHS.