HEALTH leaders say they acknowledge the “emotional strain and heartache” caused by the decision to stop free IVF for five years.

On Tuesday, the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group agreed to reinstate the service and offer two free rounds to couples.

The CCG had withdrawn free IVF to couples in 2015, except in exceptional circumstances, due to its financial pressures.

The move to offer the service again also aims to bring it in line with neighbouring CCGs in Suffolk so ending the postcode lottery.

The West Suffolk and Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning groups offer up to two cycles for couples who are aged under 40.

Women who are aged 40 to 42 in Suffolk are also given one free cycle of IVF.

Dr Hasan Chowhan, chairman of CCG, said: “I am pleased the CCG is now in a position to reinstate this policy.

“However, I also appreciate and acknowledge the emotional strain and heartache this would have caused many couples across north east Essex since the restriction was introduced in 2015.

“Implementing this policy at that time was an extremely difficult decision for myself and my board colleagues but we did so to ensure our limited resource was put to the best possible use to the majority of people.”

Healthwatch Essex will work with the CCG to bring about the changes from April 1 and communicate it to patients across Colchester and Tendring.

Jenni Dayman, 28, and her husband spent more than £15,000 to have IVF privately when the CCG changed the rules.

Jenni, who is now expecting her first child, has endometriosis and had a cancerous tumour removed from one of her fallopian tubes.

It meant she was unable to conceive naturally.

Jenni, from Colchester, said: “Instead we have had to borrow money from family members, work overtime and overall worry about how we will be able to cope while I am on maternity leave.

“When it was first announced I was angry I was being denied the right to have children.

“In the future, if I wish to have another I would meet the criteria to get free IVF, but I would probably go private again.

“I do hope others in my situation don’t go through the upset and stress I went through and they get the chance to have a baby.”

Sarah Norcross, director of fertility charity Progress Educational Trust (PET), said: "PET welcomes the decision by North East Essex clinical commissioning group (CCG) board to reinstate 2 NHS-funded IVF cycles for women under 40 and 1 IVF cycle for women aged 40-42 from 1 April 2020. 

"After nearly half a decade where all access to NHS fertility treatment was denied, this news will be a beacon of hope for the 1 in 6 couples in the region struggling to become parents, though this news will, sadly, come too late for some.

"PET is also encouraged this fertility policy rethink, which comes on the back of Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage’s strongly-worded letter to those CCGs which do not provide any NHS-funded fertility treatment, signals CCGs are beginning to tackle England’s unacceptable IVF postcode lottery.

"PET urges the four CCGs who still refuse to provide NHS fertility treatment – Mid Essex, Basildon and Brentwood, Croydon and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – to follow North East Essex’s lead and restore funding for IVF.

"For the 1 in 6 couples affected by infertility, time is of the essence: delays to treatment not only add to the mental health struggles infertile couples experience, they may also take away a couple’s opportunity to ever become parents."