Councillors have backed a full return of maternity services to the town to help it ‘keep its heritage’.
Members of Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee pledged to offer increased maternity services at the University of Hospital of Hartlepool after an in-depth investigation into services currently offered.
Councillors said the development of a hub offering a range of maternity and family services would be positive and added their preferred option continues to be the re-establishment of a full consultant-led maternity unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee chairman Coun Brenda Loynes said she has had conversations with health bosses and is hopeful of more maternity services returning to the town, after just three births at the hospital in 2017.
She said: “It concerns me greatly that if this is allowed to continue, the unit would close and there would be no babies born in Hartlepool.
“We are pushing for the consultants to come back, there are no certainties, but hopefully, we can get what we want back, we want better.
“We need to keep our heritage, it’s a crying shame but I think people are listening, we’ve had several meetings and we will get there eventually.
“Hartlepool people are very passionate people about our town and we’ve lost enough services in the past few years.”
Maternity service provision at the hospital changed in 2008, which saw consultant obstetricians removed and the creation of a midwife-led “open when required” birthing centre.
The investigation also found there was a perception among some the birthing centre was closed and councillors said it was important to get a positive message out there of the services on offer.
Coun Rob Cook said: “I just think we all agree it was a disgrace we lost the services that we did.
“I would like to see a total return of our maternity services. Unless we get to that stage, the population, in regards to births, will be virtually nil, which I think is a disgrace in itself.
“Families should be able to have their children in Hartlepool, be born in Hartlepool and be proud to be from Hartlepool.”
A task group will also be set up to monitor the implementation of recommendations made by the committee.
Coun Jim Lindridge said: “I think this is a critical time for the town.
“This is really important it is a vital service, I think it’s imperative we return to a consultant service.
“Lots of people are being born out of the town and I think we are losing our heritage as well.
“Apart from that is the health and wellbeing of mothers and expectant mothers, we don’t want them to be travelling 10 to 15 miles.”
The committee heard from a series of expert witnesses, carried out an online survey of new mums’ experiences and visited a similar midwife-led hub in Blackburn.
Coun John Tennant said: “We were really disappointed that only three births took place in the town the year before last.
“When we arrived at the Blackburn unit it was an eye opener for me to see the differences between the unit.
“We hope this will be the beginning of something that could see more positive success happening at our hospital.”
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service