Councillors vow they ‘will not be lied to’ after fertility unit rift with hospital trust

Hospital trust leaders' non attendance at a meeting over the future of fertility services in town angered Hartlepool Borough Council
Hospital trust leaders' non attendance at a meeting over the future of fertility services in town angered Hartlepool Borough Council

Councillors have moved to end a rift with hospital chiefs – but have vowed “we won’t be lied to”.

Hartlepool Borough Council removed hospital chiefs from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust from the Hartlepool Health and Wellbeing Board 18 months ago.

Alan Foster

Alan Foster

It was in response to the council’s dissatisfaction with the hospital trust over the trust’s decision to end licensed fertility services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool last year.

It resulted in the council taking the hospital trust to the High Court to try to stop the unit’s closure.

Alan Foster, the chief executive of the hospital trust has now written to council chief executive Gill Alexander requesting the trust join the health and wellbeing board again.

Yesterday, the council’s Audit and Governance Committee, which clashed with the hospital trust during its scrutiny of the fertility changes, agreed to welcome a representative of the trust back.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, said: “I was in favour of removing them because it sent a clear signal that we’re not prepared to be walked over, we’re not prepared to be lied to.

“But there is lots of movement now; Sustainability Transformation Partnerships (STPs), the Better Health Programme is in full flow.

“We need that interaction. I do believe the time has come now that we do invite them back on [to the Health and Wellbeing Board].”

But the committee accused the trust of previously lying to them during the fertility row.

The trust said the reason for the changes was an inability to recruit embryologists.

But former Hartlepool fertility unit consultant Dr Mohamed Menabawey disputed that. And the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said it was not aware of availability issues nationally.

Coun Martin-Wells added: “We have been lied to in the past, we’re not prepared to be lied to in the future.”

The committee said it wants to see the hospital trust represented on the health board by a clinician instead of a manager.

The Health and Wellbeing Board is also supporting the inclusion of a representative from the trust in light of the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, Better Health Programme and Hartlepool Matters projects.