Couples face new IVF postcode lottery as NHS cuts costs
Childless couples are facing a widening postcode lottery after NHS officials ordered GPs to slash the amount of fertility treatment on offer to cut costs, stark new figures show. Women in some areas are being denied access to the treatment altogether while others are facing new restrictions which appear to flout national guidelines.
One in five local Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) said they had cut the number of IVF procedures they had funded over the past three years, the study by the health magazine, Pulse, found. Some trusts have frozen funding for IVF completely while reduced the number of cycles on offer.
Funding chiefs blamed the economic downturn and the looming spending cuts for the decision but campaigners said many infertile couples were now being denied a “fundamental right”.
Under guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical excellence (Nice) GPs are advised to offer women under 40 up three cycles of IVF on the NHS. But several trusts have recently ordered family doctors to cut the number of cycles on offer to two or one.
Nine PCTs – in Luton, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Waltham Forest, Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Portsmouth, Bolton and West Kent – admitted they had not funded any IVF treatment for two years, acccording to the Pulse study.
NHS Warrington, which recently stopped all funding for IVF until at least 2011 insisted its priority had to be maintaining “high quality local healthcare”.
NHS Brighton and Hove, which now funds only two cycles, said the limit was in line with a region-wide policy across the south east of England.
Some GPs warned that the dilemma was “typical” of the problems they would have to grapple with under government plans to hand them control of their own budgets.
The British government is between a rock and a hard place over immigration
The problem is low-skilled immigrants from central Europe and illegals from everywhere but the government has no control over arrivals of the former (unless it leaves the EU) and a proven inability to do much about the latter. So the only way they can effectively cut immigration is to bar skilled migrants from the rest of the world — which will at least do no good and probably will do harm
There is one very effective step they could take but they are probably too centrist to do it: Deny welfare benefits to immigrants until they have made ten years of National Insurance contributions
The Government has got its policy on immigration caps wrong and should drop it in favour of a points-based system, according to the head of the business group, London First, and leading international companies.
With just days left until submissions to the Government consultation on immigration controls are due, businesses are warning caps on skilled labour could threaten the recovery and drive business abroad.
London First claims that the coalition’s plans to cap non-EU immigration will affect only 55,000 of the 567,000 migrants who came to the UK, based on last year’s figures. Those migrants are what is known as Tier 1 and Tier 2 migrants – highly skilled and skilled workers who are in many cases key employees.
“I do not think the public had these people in mind when they voted for this Government’s plan to cap immigration,” Baroness Valentine, chief executive of London First, said.
The deadline for submissions to the Migration Advisory Committee is Tuesday. London First and its members are calling for the cap on Tier 2 migrants, skilled workers, to be lifted. The group is particularly keen on inter-company immigration – where workers move between different national offices – to be uncapped.
The temporary cap on immigration, introduced earlier this summer, is due to end in April next year when permanent limits could be put in place.
The Government says it plans to reduce net immigration from the current 500,000 per year to “tens of thousands”. But London First questions how this is possible by targeting the 50,000 Tier 1 and 2 migrants that arrive each year.
British children let down by failing schools, says CBI
Thousands of teenagers are still being “let down” by failing schools despite record investment in education under Labour, according to business leaders. In a damning final judgment on the previous government’s education record, employers said a 120 per cent rise in the amount of money spent on schools had “not delivered the returns” needed to drive the British economy.
The Confederation of British Industry warned that serious concerns still surrounded school leavers’ lack of literacy and numeracy skills combined with the relatively low number of teenagers studying vital science and maths subjects to a high standard.
Too many teenagers also entered the workplace lacking basic employability skills, such as the ability to analyse evidence, communicate with colleagues and solve problems, it claimed.
The conclusions were made in a report published to coincide with the start of the first full school year under the new Conservative-led Government.
The CBI, which represents some 240,000 British businesses, praised the Coalition’s reforms, including the expansion of independent academies, but insisted “much more” was needed to improve the education system.
It called for ministers to allow profit-making companies to take over the running of the worst schools to turnaround chronic under-performance.
New rules should also be introduced to teach a broad set of employability skills as well as encouraging the best students to take separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics, it said.
Susan Anderson, CBI director of public services and education, said progress had been made over the last 13 years but “significant challenges remain”. “Too many school leavers leave education without the skills, knowledge and attitude to work [that] employers are looking for,” she said. “And too many of these young people are being let down by persistent underperformance of the education system through attending failing or coasting schools. “The link between a disadvantaged background and poor educational achievement remains too clear.”
The report said Government spending on education had more than doubled to £60 billion a year between 1996 and 2008, delivering better GCSE results and a drop in the number of schools placed in special measures by Ofsted.
This summer, almost a quarter of GCSE entries were graded an A in the 22nd straight year-on-year rise, while A-level results also soared to a record high. But the CBI said that looking “past the headline GCSE and A-level results” revealed a “more complex and concerning picture of the UK’s education system”. It said half of all 16-year-olds failed to gain at least five good GCSEs, including English and maths, last year.
Almost 250 secondary schools failed to hit the basic GCSE targets designed to ensure 30 per cent of pupils gain five A* to C grades in 2009, it said, and the UK has the third highest number of 16- to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training in the developed world.
The CBI also said that many children lacked skills such as self-management, customer awareness, problem solving and basic communication, suggesting that schools prioritised the regurgitation of “facts” over the application of knowledge. “The decade of spending on education has not delivered the returns expected or needed,” said the study. “Neither has it delivered significant change in the systems and structures which might drive future improvement.”