‘We didn’t have to consult you’ – health chiefs on fertility services closure at Hartlepool hospital

The University Hospital of Hartlepool

The University Hospital of Hartlepool

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Health chiefs who have decided to shut down fertility services did not have to consult over the move, a council meeting will be told.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust will stop providing patients with licensed treatments, including IVF, at the University Hospital Hartlepool from the end of March.

The decision has been made reluctantly following clinical safety concerns due to pressures in the service with a consistent lack of embryologist cover.

Report to Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee

Health chiefs say it follows difficulties in recruiting embryologists to provide the service safely at the unit, which is staffed by a nine-strong team and will continue to offer some general treatments.

In papers to go before a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee it states the trust is working with other licensed providers to explore the possibility of a service being brought back to the town in the future, but talks are in their early stages.

The report states the trust “is not required to consult on a proposal for the substantial development/variation of a health service when the decision has been taken on the basis of risk to the safety or welfare of patients or staff.”

Latest figures show that in 2013/14, the unit treated 175 patients, offering 136 IVF cycles and a total number of 231 cycles, with some offered a number of attempts.

The document says under regulations, the NHS or health service commissioner is not required to consult on proposals for a development or variation of a service when the decision has been taken because of a risk of safety or welfare of patients or staff.

The report says: “The decision has been made reluctantly following clinical safety concerns due to pressures in the service with a consistent lack of embryologist cover.”

The trust says it advertised for an embyologist on three separate occasions within six months.

Among those expected to attend Friday’s meeting are the trust’s chief executive Julie Gillon, lead gynaecologists, MP Iain Wright and representatives of the Royal College of Nursing and Unison.

The committee will gather at the Civic Centre at 2.30pm.