Senior councillors say they are exploring all options including legal action to prevent the planned closure of licensed fertility services at Hartlepool’s hospital.
The latest twist follows a council meeting two weeks ago when hospital leaders were called to explain the reasons for the closure at the end of March but failed to turn up.
The time has come for the hospital trust to realise that the council’s Audit and Governance Committee is not a talking shop and has teeth which we are prepared to use, and the Trust should be prepared for thatCoun Ray Martin-Wells
Hartlepool Borough Council says it has heard from lawyers for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust that it is prepared to enter into a formal consultation over the unit’s closure.
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chairman of the Audit & Governance Committee, said: “However, we have informed them that they should not automatically assume the outcome of that consultation and in the meantime we have written a letter from the council’s Chief Solicitor, on the advice of a senior barrister, indicating that the trust should rescind their earlier decision on closure of the fertility unit, including the protection of staff, until the outcome of full consultation has been made known.
“Should they fail to do so, then the council would explore its options. The time has come for the hospital trust to realise that the council’s Audit and Governance Committee is not a talking shop and has teeth which we are prepared to use, and the Trust should be prepared for that.”
Council leader Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher added: “There is an overwhelming strength of feeling throughout Hartlepool and our surrounding communities that people want hospital services provided locally rather than travelling to North Tees, which is costly and wholly inconvenient to patients and their families and friends.
“As a council, we’ll continue to hold the hospital trust to account and do everything we can to ensure that hospital services reflect what local people actually want.”
Following councillors’ anger at the trust after the last meeting, the committee agreed to ask health secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene.
The meeting was adjourned to give the trust another chance to attend and answer questions. It will be re-convened in the Civic Centre on Friday, February 26, at 10am.
Coun Martin-Wells added: “The hospital trust has a legal duty to attend under the regulations”.