My name is Clare Lewis-Jones and I am Chief Executive of Infertility Network UK (I N UK) which also incorporates More To Life and ACeBabes.
I attended the Labour Party Conference in my home town of Liverpool because I wanted to learn more about what the charity can do in order to improve the level of NHS funding currently available for fertility treatment in the UK and provide equality of provision which sadly isn’t in place at the moment – we literally have a treatment by postcode situation with the PCTs making their own decisions on what they will fund in relation to fertility treatment – and for whom. That is despite a clinical guideline being produced by NICE in 2004 which recommended 3 full cycles of IVF should be provided on the NHS for those who fit the clinical criteria they also recommended. We also want to ensure that the commissioning of IVF is left with the proposed National Commissioning Board and does not go the GP commissioning if and when the proposed changes to commissioning by the current government take place.
Finally we hoped to get ideas on how we can improve funding in the rest of the UK, in particular N. Ireland where just one fresh cycle is commissioned and Wales where just 2 cycles are commissioned.
It was an extremely interesting, and exhausting, two days! The Conference is absolutely huge with perhaps 10,000 or more delegates. I only wish I had worn more sensible shoes! Unfortunately the only fringe meeting that was potentially relevant to my reason for attending over the 2 days clashed with the round table event organised by the NCVO and chaired by Sam Younger, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission with Roberta Blackman Woods, the Shadow Minister for Civil Society. Roberta informed us that she had spoken to a large number of charities of various sizes and had received a lot of useful feedback. She spoke about the fact that previous funding streams were going and that obviously therefore funding is an issue as well as finding new funding streams. She said that the map of volunteering was not consistent across the UK and that generally there were more volunteers in the affluent parts of the country. She also discussed the Localism Bill and the fact that there was some concern that it might lead to a tendering process by the private sector rather that the voluntary organisations.
The main focus of discussion that followed was on the subject of the escalating difficulties for charities in these times of cutbacks by local authorities and grant making organisations. It was interesting yet not surprizing to see that we were all experiencing similar problems in dwindling funding; the need for more core funding to be available rather than eternal projects; how we would like to provide services to providers but who would give us the resources to do so In the evening I attended the Third Sector reception, where the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband addressed us and where we were entertained superbly by The Bootleg Beatles – an inspired idea given the location of the conference! It was a thoroughly enjoyable meeting where we networked with fellow delegates to the Conference, fellow bursary winners and our lovely NCVO hosts.
On the Tuesday morning I was sadly unable to get in to the fringe event I had intended to go to as it was vastly oversubscribed so I hit the exhibition and spread the word of Infertility Network UK as much as I could. I then watched Ed Miliband giving his Leader’s Speech on one of the big screens dotted around the conference and made my way home.
It really was an interesting 2 days and I am grateful to the NCVO for their bursary.
Clare Lewis-Jones MBE