A THREATENED cut to the number of IVF cycles available to childless couples in Lancashire has been described as “heartbreaking”.

Clinical commissioners representing Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire will meet today to discuss a controversial move from two to one courses of treatment in future.

One leading fertility charity has labelled the anticipated move, which will apply across Lancashire and South Cumbria, as “dreadful”.

Health chiefs say they will be spending around £2.5million on widening the age range for women entitled to receive IVF assistance.

No figures have been released though over how much the NHS might save by introducing the proposed cycles reduction.

County Cllr Azhar Ali said: “This is heartbreaking. IVF is a lifeline for those couples struggling to have children.”

The Labour group leader on Lancashire County Council acknowledged that clinical commissioning groups were facing tough choices.

But he added: “This is another example of the Government saying they are putting more money into the NHS when they are ripping the heart out of it.

“For people who cannot have children, having two or three cycles of IVF is their only hope.

“Now we are saying that it will only happen if you are rich and can afford the treatment privately.”

Under guidelines issued by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) three cycles of IVF should be offered to couples.

Aileen Fenney, chief executive of the Fertility Network and co-chairman of Fertility Fairness, the national campaigning charity, said the prospective change was “dreadful”.

She told the Lancashire Telegraph that the Health Secretary, Nick Hancock, had only said this week that placing restrictions on IVF availability was “unacceptable”.

“The NICE guidelines are supposed to be run on a clinical and financial basis but we are seeing cuts across the country,” she added.

Currently IVF is offered to women aged 18 to 42 in Blackburn with Darwen but only to under-40s in East Lancashire, covering Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.

This would be equalised to ages 18 to 42 if the policy is adopted at a joint meeting, scheduled to be held in Lancaster this afternoon. The joint committee was unavailable for comment last night.