Hartlepool councillors appeal to government over fertility closure

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

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will be asked to intervene in the battle to keep Hartlepool’s fertility unit.

Councillors approved a host of actions in relation to the threat to Hartlepool hospital’s Assisted Reproduction Unit.

The matter will now be formally referred to the Secretary of State for Health asking him to postpone the planned closure of the unit and to investigate previous decisions by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to remove services on clinical safety grounds.

The council will also highlight the hospital trust’s non-attendance to two previous council scrutiny meetings.

In addition, Councillor Ged Hall, who represents the council on the hospital trust, will be requested to raise a vote of no confidence in hospital bosses at a meeting of the hospital trust’s board as soon as possible.

The measures, put forward by the council’s Audit and Governance Committee, were unanimously agreed at Thursday’s Full Council meeting.

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, vice chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, said: “A lot of work has been going on around the clock and it demonstrates how when we need to we can work together.”

But there was frustration from some members it had taken so long following previous removal of services from the University Hospital of Hartlepool, including the A&E department .

Independent councillor Jonathan Brash said: “If we had acted a bit quicker we might be in a better situation.”

He added: “It’s absolutely clear and has been for some time that the leadership of the foundation trust is not fit for purpose.”

The trust is also set to be removed from the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board in protest at its perceived unwillingness to engage with the council on the fertility issue.

Independent Seaton councillor Paul Thompson asked if that was possible after a move by Coun David Riddle 18 months ago to withdraw all council co-operation was rejected on the grounds it could put vulnerable people at risk.

Coun Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, said: “We do still need to with them however we don’t have to have them on the Health and Wellbeing Board.”

The trust has said it needs to stop providing licensed fertility treatments from the hospital because it cannot recruit embryologists to keep the unit safe.

Last week, the council obtained an interim High Court injunction to prevent the closure of the unit in the short term.

The next hearing is due to take place in the High Court on Tuesday, April 5.