Calls for health chiefs to try again to get hospital fertility service provider

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

Councillors have asked health commissioners to try again to find a new provider to run full fertility services from Hartlepool hospital.

A meeting between Hartlepool Borough Council and Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group reconvened today.

Talks came to a standstill last week when the council pressed the CCG for details about why potential provider CARE Fertility was rejected after a tender process to run full fertility services at Hartlepool Assisted Reproduction Unit (ARU).

The meeting in the civic centre heard the company, which has helped to run IVF services in Hartlepool following staffing difficulties, fell short on a requirement around staffing and recruitment to ensure the unit was sustainable in the long term.

A report that went to the CCG’s Governing Body said there was a “lack of detail” around what would happen if an assumption that the stand-in consultant did not transfer to the new provider.

It stated: “There is limited information to offer confidence as to how this gap would be filled if potential recruitment failed and what mitigations would be put in place to continue the service.”

Michael Robson, CCG procurement officer, said market feedback during the tender process indicated a full service at Hartlepool was not sustainable in the long term due to low volume of activity and investment needed.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the committee said it was a “puzzle” why CARE Fertiliy did not meet the CCG’s standards given they had loaned staff to the Hartlepool unit and has 15 other clinics around the UK.

It was inferred from last week’s meeting that CCG could not re-open the procurement process.

Chief officer Ali Wilson clarified at the latest meeting that was not the case.

The option was even considered by the CCG governing body in December.

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher said: “By the sounds of it there is no will to do that and that’s really disappointing.”

Ms Wilson said she did not think it would be appropriate to go back out to tender given the feedback from the market, and the impact on the CCG’s alternative arrangements for Hartlepool patients.

They involve most services that do not require a license being provided at Hartlepool, but patients using Gateshead or South Tees health trusts for licensed treatment such as IVF.

Defending the process Ms Wilson said: “Our paramount importance in relation to all of this is making sure we have a good service, not just any service but a good quality service for our local people that is sustainable to the future.

“I think we have gone beyond the realms of saying a procurement was unsuccessful therefore people just have to choose.

“We have already begun those negotiations to bring as much as we possibly can into the town that in fact provides a better service for who already chose to go to Gateshead.”

The committee voted unanimously in favour of going back out to tender to try to keep licensed and unlicensed services in Hartlepool.

Coun Ray Martin-Wells said: “We have taken on board what you have said about the risks, but our clear preference would be the CCG go back out and re-run the process.”