Fertility service speaks out over University Hospital of Hartlepool rejection

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

A fertility provider which had been assisting Hartlepool IVF team for several months ahead of a consultation says it was one of the organisations not chosen to take on the service.

Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) rejected a bid for the contract from CARE Fertility to operate the University Hospital of Hartlepool’s licensed fertility unit, despite claims the company has already run fertility services there.

CARE Fertility is the UK’s largest independent provider of fertility treatment and has a network of 15 clinics specialising in the diagnosis, treatment and management of infertility.

Coun Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the council’s audit and governance committee, said he is yet to be convinced that there are no acceptable bidders as he believes the provider has been working with the CCG and the Hospital Trust for seven months.

He is now calling on the CCG to attend a meeting with the council next month.

Coun Martin-Wells said: “I am yet to be convinced that there are no acceptable bidders to provide licensed fertility services from the hospital site in Hartlepool.

“Since the CCG announced the closure, it has been brought to my attention that one of the bidders deemed not to be acceptable have in fact been working alongside the CCG and the Hospital Trust providing fertility services at the Hartlepool site for the last seven months.

“I also understand that the same bidder is currently working alongside other CCG’s throughout the UK successfully operating another 15 fertility units.

“Questions still need to be answered as to why this provider is not up to the task and I can confirm that the council has required the CCG to attend a meeting in the Civic Centre, which is open to the public, on Wednesday, February 8, at 11am.”

Commenting on the rejected bid, a spokeswoman for CARE Fertility said: “CARE Fertility have been helping Hartlepool’s IVF team to maintain their fertility service for several months, so we were very disappointed not to be awarded the contract.

“We understand that some or all of the service will transfer to the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough which was not revealed in the tender process.”

A spokesman for the CCG said: “As commissioners, our priority is to ensure any service we commission is safe, clinically effective and of the highest quality. 
“There are very clear regulations in relation to NHS public sector bodies procuring services and the CCG has a duty to comply with these. Unfortunately, following a procurement process in line with the regulations we have not on this occasion been successful in securing a Provider for this service.

“The CCG is unable to comment or provide further detail on individual bidders as this information is commercial in confidence to the bidders. We can advise that the bids received did not meet the benchmark requirements in relation to service delivery of the required quality standards, therefore the bids were unsuccessful to be taken forward to contract award.

“The CCG received formal correspondence on January 13 from the Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee requesting attendance at a meeting and information relating to the procurement exercise undertaken, this will be presented to the committee as requested. The correspondence also requested ‘that the CCG do not take any precipitative action which would lead to the cessation of licensed and unlicensed fertility services at Hartlepool’.

“For assurance following the outcome of the procurement the CCG is endeavouring to secure provision of services in Hartlepool and are in discussions to identify how this can be achieved.”

Last July, Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced it was looking for a new provider for the unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

It came after Hartlepool Borough Council took the case to the High Court to stop the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust from axing the service.

But earlier this month, the Mail reported how licensed fertility services are set to move out of town after health chiefs at the CCG said they were unable to find a new provider to run Hartlepool’s Assisted Reproduction Unit.

Bosses said it could no longer provide a safe and clinically effective service.

Commenting on the situation, the CCG said they were unable to secure a provider for the service due to a “limited response from the provider market and the bids received not meeting the required quality standards”.

The CCG said their priority is to ensure any service they commission is safe, clinically effective and of the highest quality.

The decision is likely to cause distress and disruption to couples, including those going through IVF, who will now have to travel out of town to receive the treatment.