Major fertility unit blow as Hartlepool hospital set to lose licensed services

University Hospital of Hartlepool
University Hospital of Hartlepool

Licensed fertility services are to move out of Hartlepool after efforts by council chiefs to save have come to an end.

Commissioners who fund the service at Hartlepool hospital’s Assisted Reproduction Unit announced in January that they had been unsuccessful to find a suitable new provider to provide both licensed and unlicensed services in Hartlepool.

IVF treatment

IVF treatment

Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) undertook the process after the current providers, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, gave notice citing problems recruiting and keeping embryologists.

Last month, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee asked the CCG to go out to tender again after it emerged that the single potential provider rejected by the CCG was CARE Fertility whose staff have helped maintain the Hartlepool unit and have 15 other units in the UK.

A meeting of the audit committee yesterday heard the CCG’s Governing Body considered the council’s request to go out to tender again, but decided the risks were too great.

In a letter to the council, CCG Chief Officer Ali Wilson said: “These risks included the length of time this would add to reaching a successful conclusion particularly given the fragility of the current service and the potential increased clinical risk and gap in the delivery of a local service.

“It was felt that this would only further impact service users and the level of choice available to them either in the short or medium term, especially when there is no guarantee that the outcome would be any different.”

The CCG says under the new model it is developing, patients will receive most of their treatment at Hartlepool under the unlicensed services.

For licensed treatment such as IVF, they will go to James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough or a provider in Gateshead and Newcastle.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, said he made no apology for the council’s efforts, including High Court action against the North Tees and Hartlepool hospital trust.

He said: “We have exhausted every legal avenue and have gone up to and probably slightly beyond our remit to try to save that service.

“Whilst disappointed we are pleased that the bulk of services will remain in Hartlepool.”