A public consultation which will help decide the future of threatened fertility services in Hartlepool has started.
People are being encouraged to give their views on three options for the assisted reproduction services currently provided at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
There was outcry from the public and councillors in January after service providers the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust announced their intention to axe licensed fertility services at Hartlepool hospital.
The trust has told Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which pays for NHS services, that it cannot recruit enough staff to continue providing the service safely.
The CCG says it is working with the hospital trust to decide the best way forward for the fertility services.
Ali Wilson, chief officer of the CCG, said: “We are consulting with the public in to order to seek their views on the future location of assisted reproduction services in Hartlepool.
“We realise this may cause concern and we are working with the Trust to be able to provide a safe and sustainable service in the future.”
The consultation will run for six weeks until Friday, July 15.
She added: “During that time, we are encouraging as many people as possible to take part and particularly those who have already or who may use this service in the future.”
The first option for the fertility services are to continue as they are at Hartlepool, but delivered by another provider.
A second option is for unlicensed assisted reproductive services to stay at Hartlepool hospital and patients requiring licenced provision, including IVF, to choose to go somewhere else such as James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Gateshead and Newcastle Fertility Centre at the Centre for Life.
The third possible outcome is for a comprehensive assisted reproductive service with licensed and unlicensed treatments no longer provided but elsewhere in the region.
The hospital trust had intended to end licensed services at Hartlepool’s Assisted Reproduction Unit at the end of March.
Hartlepool Borough Council sought an injunction in the High Court and a judge said the trust should take no steps to close the unit until there had been a consultation.
A final decision is due by July 31.
More information is available at www.haveasay.org.uk and paper copies are also available by contacting 01642 745401.