Hartlepool fertility unit founder tells of sadness at changes

Dr Mohamed Menabawey meeting baby Elodie Meggs who he called his his first IVF grandchild.
Dr Mohamed Menabawey meeting baby Elodie Meggs who he called his his first IVF grandchild.

A former pioneering fertility consultant has spoken of his sadness after it was confirmed that licensed treatments are to move out of Hartlepool.

Council chiefs say they exhausted all avenues to try to keep treatments such as IVF at Hartlepool’s Assisted Reproduction Unit, including asking health commissioners to re-run a process to find a new provider.

Dr Mohamed Menabawey, 71, who helped to launch the successful service at Hartlepool hospital in the 1980s said: “My feeling is it’s obviously very sad.

“Most of the equipment in the laboratories was actually bought by the people of Hartlepool who donated in excess of £80,000.

“It is one of the most successful clinics in the whole of the northern region, higher than James Cook and way above the average for national standards.

“This will be the very first time in the UK that a successful clinic surrenders its licence because the management doesn’t want it.”

Unlicensed fertility treatments will remain at the Hartlepool unit but patients will have to travel to Middlesbrough or Newcastle and Gateshead for more specialist licensed treatments.

Hartlepool’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) told a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee it was working with “pace and urgency” to put the new arrangements in place.

Councillor Brenda Harrison said: “It’s not going to go altogether, I appreciate that, but it’s not going to be the same flagship service. Again I just find that Hartlepool is being sidelined.”

Mike Hill, regional organiser for the union Unison, said: “The retention of the bulk of none licensed services at the hospital is to be welcomed, and hopefully will provide some stability for the hard working staff in the ARU.

“But we have to question the future resilience of services especially where they will have a direct correlation with treatments provided elsewhere. In short we are likely to see a drift of patient care away from Hartlepool to where that care is linked to licensed IVF services.”