A health chief has promised that consultant-led maternity services will not be centralised at just one hospital in a shake up of the NHS.
Alan Foster, who is the local leader for the area’s Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) told a meeting in Hartlepool that specialist maternity services will not be centralised at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough as feared.
It means mums-to-be from Hartlepool will not have to travel even further for access to consultants when giving birth.
In October, local clinicians told Hartlepool councillors a single unit was being looked at and was supported by obstetricians.
Members of Hartlepool council’s Audit and Governance Committee welcomed the new assurance.
But they urged hospital chiefs to do more to encourage mums to give birth at Hartlepool’s midwife-led unit after dropping to single figures.
Mr Foster said: “Clearly an option would be to centralise all births in one place and whilst for some that might be on paper the most efficient and attractive model, it’s not what the public want.
“We will not be centralising everything at James Cook. We went through a lot of trauma years ago when we had to centralise from Hartlepool and we owe it to the people of Hartlepool to maintain that access as local as it possibly can be.”
He added: “There may well be some change but there will continue to be consultant-led maternity services at North Tees, that will not be changing but some of the services that support the whole package we may have to look at in terns of what we can continue to provide across the whole area.”
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the audit committee said: “I am delighted that you have given us those assurances because that was one of the rumours.
“The last thing in the world we would want is to see yet another move even further away from Hartlepool.”
Maternity chiefs said they were happy to work with the council to try to increase town births.