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Monday, 16 October, 2000, 16:13 GMT
Winston renews government attack
Lord Winston
Lord Winston: new criticism of health funding
Labour peer and fertility expert Professor Lord Winston has lambasted the government for refusing to fund and support fertility services.

"The failure to recognise the need for family health in a country which pays lip service to the family is frankly scandalous," he told a conference in London.

He described the widespread use of IVF in the UK as "reckless" when better and cheaper treatments are available.

And he added: "A sensible government should not be spending time looking at the Daily Mail and working out its policies depending on how the Daily Mail describes cloning Dolly the sheep."

Lord Winston outlined his continued concerns about UK fertility services at a women's health conference at the Royal Society of Medicine.

Earlier this year he created a storm of controversy after criticising the Labour government's record on the NHS.

He told delegates that researchers were on the brink of being able to treat infertility caused by ovary failure in women but it is not being funded.

And he said: "We have embryo screening that saves the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds and it is not funded."

"The NHS would prefer that women run the risk of having a child with a condition that it will die from."
New techniques are not being funded

Although infertility is casued by a host of problems, Lord Winston says very little effort is made to diagnose and treat them appropriately.

Instead, women are forced into opting for private IVF which is often unsuccessful, because the government refuses to provide resources for alternative and better treatments.

He described as "scandalous" the "national lottery" in fertility care and the loss of expertise that had been created by the now-defunct NHS internal market.

But he claimed "There are no signs thing have picked up."

Lord Winston also maintained that the regulatory body, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority was actively inhibiting research in the field.

Worst in Europe

The government also came under attack at the same conference from Professor Kypros Nicolaides from London's King's College.

"There is only one country in Europe where a 70-year-old woman would have to wait a couple of years - maybe until she dies - for a hip replacement," Professor Nicolaides insisted.

"There is not a single village in Portugal or Greece that forces that on its people."

But Professor Nicolaides saved his greatest venom for the Royal College of Obestetricians and Gynaecologists who he described as "the enemy" of pregnant women and their babies.

He said the college had send out a circular on ultrasound scanning which had left off large amounts of information because it was scared its members would be sued for providing inadequate care.

"The standard of ultrasound is much, much higher in Kosovo," he said.

He outlined a one-stop shop system of antenatal care which, he said, would cost one third of current antenatal care, yet prevent the death and disability of thousands of babies.

The standard of ultrasound is much, much higher in Kosovo

Professor Nicolaides, King's College
Scanning and blood testing techniques already available could be used at 12 weeks of pregnancy, if staff were given the proper training.

But, Professor Nicolaides said there was no point in approaching the government to ask for funding because it wouldn't be interested.

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See also:

02 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Winston back on NHS offensive
06 Sep 00 | Wales
Row over IVF postcode 'lottery'
31 Mar 99 | Medical notes
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