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New plans for infertility services

04 February 2021

Jersey’s Assisted Reproduction Unit (ARU) is to be revamped following an independent review and audit to evaluate patient needs and funding.

The aim is to build on the work undertaken over the past 30 years by retired Obstetrics & Gynaecology (O&G) consultant, Mr MacLachlan. 

New plans include:
  • moving to a nurse-led service
  • the arrival of a new O&G consultant with an interest in infertility
  • seeking to support a fair and equitable funding model. 
In a nurse-led ARU, a fertility nurse specialist is responsible for the overall co-ordination, management and continuity of care for patients. The duties of a fertility nurse specialist largely revolve around coordinating the patient’s fertility treatment and providing the support and encouragement needed to achieve a successful pregnancy.

Jersey’s nurse-led service will be managed by fertility nurse specialist, Sue Lowbridge, who joined Health and Community services in late 2020. Sue comes with a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills, having managed large ARUs in the UK.

Since August 2020, and in transition to a nurse-led service, waiting times for Islanders seeking a first consultation have already reduced from 16 weeks to 2 weeks following changes to processes.

A new Obstetrics & Gynaecology consultant with an interest in infertility is being recruited to provide support and oversight where required. This role will ensure that Jersey remains connected to new and evolving developments in infertility services and will establish a connection with a formal recognised UK network of high-level treatment providers. 

Until the post has been filled, Associate Professor of Reproductive Medicine, Enda McVeigh, a consultant infertility specialist who led the review into Jersey’s service, will be on-island to provide support and oversight for patients.

Plans to revise the funding model are also being developed. Health and Community Services is seeking to support IVF funding on an equitable basis, following evidence-based guidelines and best practice, including the ability for Islanders to access treatment without the need to seek the services of a private consultant.

In addition, Jersey’s infertility service will:

  • move to a digital system to provide information and support, with multiple patient experience and support benefits
  • increase public health messaging and information about infertility to ensure patients are aware in advance of the process, funding and their options.
Medical Director, Patrick Armstrong, said: “This is great news for Islanders seeking infertility services in Jersey. We recognise the work of ARU consultant Mr MacLachlan in building the service over the past 30 years and thank him for his dedication, care and service. As we now plan for the future of these services, we have independently reviewed and evaluated patient needs and funding.

“A nurse-led ARU has formed the backbone of infertility services in the UK, where specialist nurses demonstrate a high level of clinical decision-making. As a motivated and experienced infertility nurse, Sue Lowbridge is fundamental to Islanders receiving high quality patient care and a seamless service from primary to tertiary care. Sue is eager to drive forward with the positive changes in ARU.

“We do, of course, recognise that infertility is a condition which represents a lifelong crisis to many people. As the Jersey ARU service evolves, our aim is to provide equitable access to infertility services, in particular the ability for Islanders to access treatment – both high and low level – without the need to seek the services of a private consultant. We believe this can be made available for Islanders, without a significant need for additional funding from Government, by making changes to the existing service.”

Infertility Specialist Nurse, Sue Lowbridge, added: “Fertility nursing has been a passion for many years and helping people along their journey is a privilege. It is wonderful when patients achieve the outcome they have longed for, sometimes for many years. However, for those who do not achieve this outcome it is important that they feel supported and well cared for throughout their treatment. 

“The Assisted Reproduction Unit in Jersey has offered a great service to patients for many years and I would like to ensure that this continues. Working in collaboration with other departments and new Consultant, I hope to provide an evidence-based service which is available to more people in Jersey. Establishing a nurse-led service will bring an appropriate use of resources to improve the patient experience, hopefully easing the pressure on medical colleagues while offering continuity of care.”

About Enda McVeigh

Enda McVeigh is an experienced Oxford Professor of Reproductive Medicine and has worked in the Infertility speciality for many years. His experience and credentials are as follows:
  • sub-speciality accredited by GMC in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery
  • human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) Person Responsible for various IVF clinics for over 15 years
  • served on the HFEA Appeals Committee
  • founder of the largest group provider of private and NHS IVF in the UK (The Fertility Partnership)
  • medical representative on the UK Parliament All Party Advisory Group on Infertility
  • medical representative on the UK National Patient Infertility Supportive group
  • lead author of the Oxford Clinical Handbook on Reproductive Medicine

About Sue Lowbridge

Sue Lowbridge, Jersey’s new Infertility Specialist Nurse, qualified as a Registered General Nurse in 1990 and as Registered Midwife in 1992 in the West Midlands. She completed her BSc Hons in Women’s Health Studies in 1997 and PGD (Specialist Practice) in 2000. Sue first started working as a fertility nurse in 1996 and has worked in the field in the UK and in New Zealand. 

Sue was working for a Fertility Clinic in the Midlands, UK before she moved to Jersey. The clinic was very much nurse-led, whereby the nurses had an extended scope of practice, undertaking nurse consultations, trans vaginal ultrasound scans, as well as doing IUIs and embryo transfers for patients. The clinic offered the same high standards of care to NHS and Private patients alike.

Sue’s priority is to ensure that the service offered in Jersey is patient focused and whatever the outcome of an individual’s fertility journey they feel supported and well cared for throughout.
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