Hartlepool council seeks court injunction over axing of fertility services

The University Hospital of Hartlepool
The University Hospital of Hartlepool

Hartlepool Borough Council is to seek a High Court injunction to stop hospital leaders from ending licensed fertility services from the town's hospital.

It was decided at a meeting of the council today to instruct its chief solicitor to begin legal proceedings against North Tees and NHS Foundation Trust over the issue.

The trust has decided to end all licensed fertility treatment, including IVF, from the Assisted Reproduction Unit at Hartlepool hospital blaming problems with recruiting embryologists to continue running the service safely.

Trust medical director David Emerton said the trust was prepared to be "flexible" over the planned March 31 service end date while consultation over the future of the service was ongoing and it explores the long term options for the unit.

But the council's Audit and Governance Committee said it did not believe the trust was taking part in "meaningful" consultation after it refused to put an immediate hold on its closure plans and staff redundancies.

Committee chairman, Councillor Ray Martin-Wells told trust representatives: "We'll see you in court."

There was anger from councillors, MP Iain Wright, the public and unions that again the trust's chief executive Alan Foster and chairman Paul Garvin did not attend the scrutiny meeting after failing to attend the first meeting on February 5.

Mr Wright called their non-attendance "utterly contemptuous".

The trust refused to answer questions about the planned closure of licensed fertility services saying it should happen at a joint meeting also involving Durham and Stockton councils.

Dr Emerton said: "While there is uncertainty about the future of the unit we must keep talking to our staff.

"What we're trying to achieve in the weeks ahead is to get a model of care that is both best for our patients, clinically safe and also sustainable and keep as much of this as local as possible.

"If we can continue some licensed services in conjunction with another fertility unit we would wish to do so."

But Coun Martin-Wells said: "Nothing I have heard today has convinced me the trust is willing to take part in meaningful negotiations. I feel we have absolutely no option other than to go down the route of a formal referral via full council to the Secretary of State."

He added: "We will instigate legal proceedings in the High Court and we will seek to stop the trust's actions."

An extraordinary council meeting will be held to discuss the referral to the Secretary of State and also to consider a motion calling for the hospital trust to be removed from Hartlepool Health and Wellbeing Board.