Health chiefs search for new home for Hartlepool frozen embryo tanks

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Health chiefs are still searching for a new home for tanks holding fertility patients’ precious embryos after more than six months.

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said it was still looking for somewhere to keep cryotanks that store frozen embryos and other material following a decision to end treatments including IVF in Hartlepool earlier this year.

Most treatment is still carried out from the Assisted Reproduction Unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Health officials said negotiations were continuing with neighbouring trusts in Middlesbrough, Gateshead and Newcastle to establish a satellite service for IVF and other licensed treatments.

Lynn Kirby from the hospital trust told a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee: “We are working very closely with the clinical commissioning group to progress the satellite service with Gateshead and Newcastle.

“Protocols, guidelines and pathways have all been agreed. We can’t underestimate the amount of work that has gone into this and clinicians have worked really closely across all three trusts to agree these.”

Ms Kirby said “significant work” is ongoing around the relocation of the cryotanks. But she said: “Unfortunately, Newcastle, Gateshead and South Tees are unable to house these tanks for us so we are looking at other private providers to see if they can house the tanks for us so we can progress.”

She added the biggest barrier to the start of the new service was around securing enough embryologist cover.

Ms Kirby said: “The solution we are looking for is a collaborative service to manage sustainable and safe embryology cover for all patients, and provide local access and consistent, high quality standards.”

Chair of the committee Councillor Ray Martin-Wells said he was “extremely disappointed” a new location for the cryotanks had not yet been found.

He urged the trust to keep patients fully informed of all developments.

He said: “I’m sure the patients are very eager to know what’s happening with their future babies.”

The trust said all patients of the Hartlepool service had been written to around April and staff were also in regular touch.

Ms Kirby added: “We are very aware of how precious the material is that we are storing.

“We are currently discussing with HFEA (Human Fertility and Embryology Authority) how we write to patients again because we need to keep those patients informed.”

The trust is still the licence holder until a new provider for the service is found and starts.