Fury as health trust confirms Hartlepool hospital no longer delivers babies due to staffing problems

Pregnant mothers can no longer have their babies at Hartlepool hospital after its birthing centre was deemed unsustainable.

By Mark Payne
Saturday, 20 July, 2019, 06:00
University Hospital of Hartlepool

Hospital bosses say the midwife-led centre within the University Hospital of Hartlepool was not getting enough births a year to make it worthwhile to staff.

They say births fell far below the 250-300 a year needed. Just three babies were born at the University Hospital of Hartlepool in 2017, compared to 379 in 2007 when the unit was consultant led.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill. Picture by FRANK REID

The only options for Hartlepool mums-to-be are the consultant-led unit at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton, or to give birth at home.

Furious town MP Mike Hill has called the development ‘outrageous’ and claims it goes against pledges by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to make the Hartlepool maternity unit a central ‘hub’ for services in the town.

Hospital trust bosses have stressed maternity services at Hartlepool hospital remain ‘open’ with full ante and post-natal care packages.

MP’s anger over the situation

Mr Hill said: “This is an outrageous and frankly unacceptable state of affairs.

“Coming from a Trust that says it has ambitions to extend maternity services in Hartlepool this confession is simply hypocritical.

“They need to be brought to account by Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee and questions asked about why the 250 births threshold has not been raised before, why mums are routinely being passported to North Tees, and why no effort whatsoever appears to being put into allowing births to take place at the unit.

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“They are treating the people of the town like idiots and should be brought to book for it.”

Mr Hill and the Mail were contacted by one local family about the situation after they were informed by midwives the Hartlepool unit was no longer being staffed.

The MP raised it during a debate on the NHS held in Westminster this week when he said: “The will of the people, and the pride that comes from having the right to be born and registered in their own town, is continually being thwarted.”

Another town mum reportedly agreed to have baby at Hartlepool hospital but two months later she received a phone call telling her that was not possible.

What the hospital trust says

A spokesperson for the hospital trust said: “Maternity services at University Hospital Hartlepool remain open.

“We offer a full ante and post-natal care package for women across the area. The continuity of care for the women of Hartlepool pre and post their pregnancy is a realised ambition of the Trust, and we are proud to support our population in this respect.

“In order for a delivery service to remain sustainable the annual number of births must be higher than 250-300 per annum. In recent years that number dipped to below 25 in Hartlepool.

“Pregnant women have a choice regarding where they birth their children and significant numbers of Hartlepool ladies have chosen University Hospital of North Tees where a consultant led maternity service is available. It is important to note that we continue to offer a home birth option for Hartlepool mothers.

“We continue to review systems as a trust and work to facilitate best possible outcomes for pregnant women.”