Patients are being asked for their views on proposals to introduce a new policy which will give wider access to fertility preservation services - which would give more people, including transgender patients, the opportunity to have their sperm, eggs, or embryos frozen for possible use at a later date if they are about to have treatment which could cause permanent infertility.
This service, which is called cryopreservation, is already available on the NHS to many patients who are having cancer treatment, and it is proposed to extend the service to patients undergoing other procedures including gender reassignment surgery or hormone therapy.
The new policy has been developed following guidance from NHS England, which states that fertility preservation services should be made equally available to all patients whose medical or surgical treatment may make them infertile.
Amanda Fletcher, Consultant in Public Health at Nottinghamshire County Council, explained: “A number of important treatments can, unfortunately, result in permanent infertility. By collecting and freezing sperm, eggs or fertilised eggs, the patient has the opportunity to try and have children, later on, who are biologically related to them. We already offer that choice to cancer patients if their treatment is likely to cause infertility.”
All of the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the East Midlands, who make decisions on which services are offered in each area, have come together to make sure that people across the region are offered the same access to fertility preservation services wherever they live.
A public consultation process has started, where people can share their views about the proposed policy before a final decision is made.
If approved, the policy will ensure a standard approach is used for patients throughout the East Midlands. This consultation is being led by Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group on behalf of the 16 CCGs in the East Midlands.
Amanda Fletcher said: “We want to make sure that the new Gamete and Embryo Cryopreservation Policy works well for everyone and that is why we are inviting patients to complete a survey and share their views, before the policy is formally considered for approval.
“We want to know what people think about the policy and if there are any aspects we need to consider, or other groups of patients which we may have overlooked”.
The new policy sets out criteria for patients to be eligible for fertility preservation services. Men will need to be aged 55 or under and women should be aged 42 or under, in order to ensure the policy focuses on individuals who have the potential to achieve the greatest benefit from cryopreservation. Patients will receive one round of treatment; multiple attempts will not be funded by the NHS.
It is proposed that sperm, eggs and embryos will be stored for a maximum of ten years, after which patients will be offered the option to self-fund further storage.
The cost of extending the service to more patients is expected to be around £230,000 per year across the East Midlands, with the vast majority being patients undergoing cancer treatments.
The survey is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GameteCP and it is open until Sunday March 1.
Paper copies of the survey are also available by calling 01522 515309 if you would like a copy.
Patients who would like to explore their options for fertility treatment are advised, in the first instance, to talk to their registered GP.