Hospital trust’s plans to ‘grow’ IVF treatment in Leeds

Health chiefs in Leeds want to contract out fertility treatment for those hoping to start families, but insist the IVF clinic in Seacroft would remain open.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 2:23 pm

A report set to go before Leeds city councillors next week has revealed that The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust wants to “explore and test the market” for ways to expand its fertility service.

It stated that, although the trust wanted services to remain at its Seacroft Hospital site, it planned to tender services for a period of 10 years.

A briefing paper by NHS bosses said: “In the last 10 years there has been an increasing trend nationally towards privately run fertility clinics, often in chains operated by large commercial organisations.

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An embryologist working at the Seacroft fertility clinic checking eggs and embryos under a microscope.

“In the south of England almost all NHS and private fertility work is undertaken in these private clinics. In the north it is common for large NHS teaching hospitals to run fertility clinics, but for private clinics to set up in competition, undertaking private and NHS work.

“Overtime (sic) the increase in private provision can lead to a reduction in work in NHS hospitals with a consequent loss of income and risk that services become financially unsustainable.”

Health chiefs stated that, until recently, Leeds did not have any private companies operating IVF services, but now there was at least one company operating in the city.

The report added: “The potential implications of this are that Leeds Fertility would then be in direct competition with these providers and potentially lose income and NHS staff to the new providers. In this highly specialised field, staff loss could have a substantial negative impact on the service at Seacroft.

“To mitigate the risk to the fertility services provided by Leeds Fertility and to ensure they continue to be provided at Seacroft Hospital, Leeds Teaching Hospitals proposes to tender the Leeds Fertility IVF service for a contract period of ten years.”

As part of the newly-expanded service, the purpose built site in Seacroft Hospital – built in 2010 – would continue to be used.

The facility currently performs around 1,300 IVF/ICSI treatments and 700 frozen embryo transfers each year.

The paper concluded: “The trust is seeking to explore and test the market for opportunities to grow and sustain the Leeds Fertility IVF service in light of a changing competitive market in Leeds.

“There are no plans to change the service for patients, rather to maintain the current high quality and specialisation of services that are delivered. The decision to award a contract to a new provider is dependent on the quality of the bids submitted and the assessment LTHT makes of those bids.

“Staff and patients’ views have been considered in the development of the tender, and are important aspects of the evaluation of any bids that are received.”

The plans will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s Adults and Health Scrutiny Board on Tuesday, March 16.