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  1. ITV Report

IVF treatment to stop in Bristol by the end of the year

Photo: ITV News

Thousands of people in fertility treatment, or waiting for it, at the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine at Southmead Hospital, received letters this week to let them know that the clinic will close at the end of November.

Patients received a letter this week. Credit: ITV News

The letter says that the centre - which joined the North Bristol NHS Trust in 2008 - has seen a "reduction in the number of NHS funded patients receiving treatment with us, with more couples now self-funding their treatment." In fact, 60 per cent of the clinic's patients are now privately funded.

It added, "we want to reassure you that the continuity of care for our patients is of the greatest importance to us, As such, plans are in place to ensure that the transfer of care to a new provider or providers, happens as smoothly as possible." A formal tendering process will open in the next few weeks.

But for many, the news has left them uncertain about what will happen next.

Kitty Webster, who lives in East Bristol, is in 'treatment planning'. This means she's yet to start a form of IVF, but is a patient at the clinic. She has to wait for an operation before she can proceed, and is worried that it won't happen before the November deadline.

In a statement, the Trust said:

We understand that this decision has been upsetting for our patients and we wanted to be sure that we communicated with them at an appropriate time. We felt it was important to inform everyone at the same time and due to the numbers involved the only way of doing this was by writing to all of our patients.

– North Bristol NHS Trust

Laura Banks lives in Colerne in Wiltshire. She is 20 weeks pregnant following a round of IVF, funded by the NHS. But she still has eggs in storage at the centre.

Campaign group Fertility Fairness calls the South West a 'fertility blackspot'. In a statement charity Fertility Network UK said:

This is a deeply disappointing decision. Fertility patients in Bristol and the surrounding area will suffer unnecessary additional stress as a result of the closure of their local IVF unit at Southmead hospital. Undergoing fertility treatment is already an incredibly stressful and lengthy process - hospital appointments are numerous and acutely time-sensitive; that's why being able to access a local, convenient hospital is of incredible importance. Being forced to travel much further distances will only add to an already distressing situation and make the task of having to negotiate work arrangements with employers, who are often reluctant to allow time off for fertility treatment, more difficult.

– Susan Seenan, chief executive of Fertility Network UK

A formal process to find a new provider will begin in July. Company CREATE Fertility will bid to take over all NHS referrals.

Fertility is in itself very emotional and stressful for couples and women to suffer and this is an unnecessary complication and an unnecessary impact on potential patients. What we need to do is provide some clarity as soon as possible and we hope our offer to the trust could do this.

– Praful Nargund, CREATE Fertility