Fertility meeting halted over lack of answers

Chris Gibson with his daughter Scarlett Gibson

Chris Gibson with his daughter Scarlett Gibson

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Health chiefs have been criticised for failing to say exactly why a potential provider of licensed fertility treatments at Hartlepool Assisted Reproduction Unit was rejected.

Representatives of Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which undertook a search for a new provider at Hartlepool hospital, attended a scrutiny meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council this morning.

From left;  Peter Devlin (council chief solicitor) Councillor Rob Cook, Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, Laura Stones (scrutiny support officer) during a meeting held in Hartlepool Civic Centre, Hartlepool.

From left; Peter Devlin (council chief solicitor) Councillor Rob Cook, Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, Laura Stones (scrutiny support officer) during a meeting held in Hartlepool Civic Centre, Hartlepool.

It emerged that out of nine providers who expressed an interest in providing licensed services, including IVF, only one submitted a final bid.

They are CARE Fertility which had assisted Hartlepool IVF team for seven months.

It is also the UK’s largest independent provider of fertility treatment and has a network of 15 clinics up and down the country.

The CCG said the bidder failed on two ‘red flag’ areas but said it could not specify what they were.

We have just been through IVF again at Hartlepool and it has been effective because my wife is pregnant.

Chris Gibson, Hartlepool ARU patient

Ali Wilson, chair of the CCG, told the committee: “When assessed against the criteria that they knew, unfortunately they didn’t meet the standards that we needed.”

She said they could not give any further details because it was commercially sensitive, other than saying they had followed their same ‘robust’ procurement process for all contracts.

She added the CCG had “worked tirelessly” to try to find an alternative provider after the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said it could not sustain the service.

Councillors said they were extremely disappointed the CCG had not been able to secure a new provider in Hartlepool.

Karen Hawkins and Ali Wilson (Hartlepool and Stockton NHS clinical commissioning group) during the meeting held in Hartlepool Civic Centre

Karen Hawkins and Ali Wilson (Hartlepool and Stockton NHS clinical commissioning group) during the meeting held in Hartlepool Civic Centre

The meeting was adjourned until a future date to allow both the council and CCG to seek legal advice.

Coun Martin-Wells said: “I do believe this committee representing the people of Hartlepool and surrounding areas has the right to know why a bidder wasn’t successful when they have been successful in 15 other areas.”

Earlier, the CCG presented details of future arrangements for patients who use the Hartlepool unit which it said would see the vast majority of treatments retained in town.

When licensed services, such as embryo transfer, are required patients would have to travel to Newcastle or Middlesbrough three times in a week.

Patient Chris Gibson, 33, from Hartlepool, who attended the meeting with wife Sam, 36, said: “We have just been through IVF again at Hartlepool and it has been effective because my wife is pregnant.

“The quality was fine. If it has been successful obviously they (CARE Fertility) are doing their job.”

They also have two-year-old daughter Scarlett thanks to the Hartlepool unit.