Health chiefs to face grilling over Hartlepool fertility service

The University Hospital of Hartlepool.
The University Hospital of Hartlepool.
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Health officials will be grilled about their attempts to find a new provider for Hartlepool’s valued fertility unit at a meeting this week.

A special meeting of Hartlepool’s Audit and Governance Committee will take place on Wednesday morning in the Civic Centre.

we feel that it is incumbent upon us to obtain a clear understanding of the background to this development, the overall tender process and the proposed service changes

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells

Representatives from Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who led the tender process for the Assisted Reproduction Unit at Hartlepool’s hospital, are due to attend to answer questions.

The meeting has been called after the CCG, which arranges and pays for local NHS services, said it was unable to find a suitable provider to keep licensed fertility treatments, such as IVF, in the town.

Patients, including those with embryos stored in Hartlepool, face uncertainty and disruption as they will have to find somewhere else.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the audit committee, has said he is “yet to be convinced that there are no acceptable bidders”.

In a letter to the CCG, he said: “Given our responsibilities under the Local Authority (Public Health, Health, Health and Wellbeing Boards and Health Scrutiny) Regulations 2013, we feel that it is incumbent upon us to obtain a clear understanding of the background to this development, the overall tender process and the proposed service changes.”

The committee is seeking details including the information made available by the CCG to bidders, how many expressions of interest were received from prospective tenderers and why any of them were rejected.

It is also asking for clarification of the process, and timetable, for implementing the proposed changes, and what arrangements will be put in place in the meantime.

Announcing the outcome last month, the CCG said it received a limited response from potential providers, and the bids not meet required quality standards.

It says it is working closely with existing NHS commissioned providers in the region to deliver a greater choice of unlicensed services at the Hartlepool site.

The search for a new provider came about after the current providers, the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said it could no longer continue to provide licensed treatments.

The trust blamed problems recruiting and retaining embryologists.

Wednesday’s meeting starts at 11am and is open to the public.