Anger at ‘flawed’ view of Hartlepool hospital’s closure-threatened fertility unit

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Council chiefs have blasted the findings of an NHS report on fertility services in Hartlepool after it found hospital bosses were right to try to end them on safety grounds.

A panel of the Northern England Clinical Senate was asked by local commissioners to review North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s decision for the Assisted Reproduction Unit (ARU) following public outcry which led to High Court action to stop the closure by Hartlepool council.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells chairman of the council's Audit and Governance Committee. Picture by FRANK REID

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells chairman of the council's Audit and Governance Committee. Picture by FRANK REID

In a report, the panel says the unit was suffering from a shortage of staff and was not clinically safe.

But a senior councillor has called the findings “misguided” and accused hospital leaders of “running down” the unit since November, when it was given a clean bill of health by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chairman of the council’s Audit and Governance scrutiny committee, said: “I am extremely disappointed with the findings of this report. They are misguided and fundamentally flawed.

“Since the inspection last November, the hospital trust has run down fertility services, so it’s no surprise that anyone looking at the service now would hold this view.”

He said trust claims that it is unable to recruit embryologists were “totally without foundation”.

After visiting the ARU earlier this month, the clinical senate said there had been difficulties with recruitment for some time and a consultant had left after only three months.

There had also been a number of medium and long-term staff sickness absences.

A spokesman for Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We acknowledge the concerns raised by the local council in relation to the findings of the independent clinical review team.

“This information will be considered alongside all other responses received during the consultation period to enable the CCG’s Governing body to enable make an informed decision.”

Coun Martin-Wells encouraged people to attend a meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee at the civic centre on Thursday, July 28, which will consider the review’s findings.

He also urged people to take part in an ongoing consultation about the future of the ARU which ends on July 15.

Visit www.haveasay.org.uk, call (01642) 745401 or email NECSU.Info-Comms@nhs.net