Licensed fertility services are set to move out of town after health chiefs said they were unable to find a new provider to run Hartlepool’s Assisted Reproduction Unit.
The decision, which is likely to cause distress and disruption to couples including those going through IVF treatment, could face a legal challenge from Hartlepool Borough Council.
Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) agreed to look for a new provider for the unit at Hartlepool hospital after the council went to the High Court to stop the hospital trust from axing the valued service.
The trust said it could no longer provide a safe and clinically effective service.
A CCG spokesman said: “Unfortunately, due to a limited response from the provider market and the bids received not meeting the required quality standards, we have not been successful in securing a provider that can offer both licensed and unlicensed fertility services at Hartlepool.”
The CCG says it is working closely with other NHS providers to deliver unlicensed services at Hartlepool. And the hospital trust will contact all patients of licensed treatments, including those with embryos in storage, to find another provider.
The CCG added: “We are disappointed that we have not been able to secure a provider but as commissioners our priority is to ensure any service we commission is safe, clinically effective and of the highest quality.
“Although patients told us during the consultation that they would be prepared to travel for fertility treatment we do know that this will be difficult for some and we will work with providers to minimise the impact of these changes as much as possible.”
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the council’s Audit & Governance Committee, said: “I’m astounded that the CCG have been unable to find suitable alternative providers for the licensed fertility services in Hartlepool as I have spoken to many potential providers personally.”
He said his committee would examine the tender process adding: “The council took legal action in the High Court to prevent an early closure and I can confirm that I have spoken to the council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, chief executive Gill Alexander and chief solicitor Peter Devlin and we will be contacting the council’s retained barrister Clive Sheldon QC on Monday and at this stage we wouldn’t rule out further legal action.”