Council steps up action against closure of Hartlepool hospital fertility service

The University Hospital of Hartlepool.
The University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Hartlepool councillors will be asked to agree a string of recommendations tonight  in response to hospital bosses' decision to close licensed fertility services at the town’s hospital at the end of this month.

Hartlepool Borough Council has already sought an injunction to prevent the closure, by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, which resulted in a High Court judge ordering the service, at University Hospital of Hartlepool remains open until a hearing takes place on April 5.

Earlier this week, hospital bosses failed to turn up to a council meeting for a third successive time, to explain the rationale for the closure.

A report from the authority's audit and governance committee to a meeting of the full council, starting at 7pm tonight, recommends that councillors take further action against the trust.

Steps include:

- Formally referring the matter to the Secretary of State for Health

- Removing the Hospital Trust from the town’s Health and Wellbeing Board

- Asking the Secretary of State for Health to postpone the closure

- Informing the Secretary of State for Health of the Ttust’s non-attendance at meetings they have a duty to attend

- Asking the Secretary of State to investigate previous trust decisions to remove services on clinical safety grounds

- Requesting hospital governors to attend a meeting to explain the behaviour of trust senior management shunning council meetings

The trust is claiming it has to cease services on safety grounds because it cannot recruit enough embryologists.

However, councillors, fertility expert Dr Mohammad Menabawey, the town’s MP Iain Wright, the Royal College of Nursing and Trade Unions, believe that there is no substance to the claim and feel that the move is part of the trust’s plan to eventually close the town’s hospital.

Dozens of members of the public – many whom have used the service - have attended the meetings and also voiced their concerns and anger at the planned closure.

At the most recent meeting, yesterday, Coun Ray Martin-Wells, chairman of the audit and governance committee, said: “By failing to turn up to meetings on three occasions, the hospital trust has shown total contempt for the people of this town.

“They have behaved appallingly and we will not let them get away with it. Clearly, we are pleased to get the High Court injunction which prevents any closure before April 5 but we are exploring every other option to ensure that licensed fertility services continue to be provided in Hartlepool.”

Hartlepool councillors have accused the Ttrust of not carrying out proper consultation and also requested that redundancy notices of staff working in the fertility unit be rescinded.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher added: “Trust bosses had the opportunity to enter into dialogue with the council and the people of this town on three recent occasions to explain the rationale for the closure but each time they have declined.

“There is a massive strength of feeling throughout the town about the migration of services from the town’s hospital and we will challenge this all the way.”