Hospital bosses ruled out reinstalling a consultant-led maternity service in Hartlepool and instead called for technology to be used to promote the ‘excellent’ care on offer.
It comes after members of Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee called for increased maternity services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool after an in-depth investigation into services.
Councillors said the development of a hub offering a range of maternity and family services would be positive for the town.
They also added their preferred option continues to be the re-establishment of a full consultant-led maternity unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
But Dr Deepak Dwarakanath, from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust, said there are not enough specialist members of staff to have consultant-led services in both Hartlepool and Stockton, at the University Hospital of North Tees.
However he backed the creation of a ‘maternity hub’ and said it was important services on offer in Hartlepool were promoted, especially using technology and suggested a phone app.
He said: “One of the issues about the ladies having babies is it’s all focused on the delivery side of it, actually the bulk of the care is in the pre-delivery phase.
“The ladies of Hartlepool have an active, full antenatal service on the site, they get all the care they need and they also have postnatal work and checks done locally.
“The ability to provide two consultant-led services across Hartlepool and Stockton is just not there, there aren’t the obstetricians around to provide that and the costs of delivery would be phenomenal.
“The thing we do need to do is promote the excellent midwife-led service in Hartlepool to the ladies of Hartlepool in a more active way.
“Most people’s life choices are made through there smartphones now, if you’re looking to buy a car the first thing you’ll do is go on your smartphone and look at what sort of car you want.
“We should have the ability to go onto an app of some sort which gives you a virtual tour of the units here and also information about the safety, the accessibility and the misconceptions, that’s really important.”
It comes after just three babies were born at the University Hospital of Hartlepool in 2017, compared to 379 in 2007.
The investigation into maternity services had involved consulting a variety of experts and visiting the midwife-led Blackburn Birthing Centre, highlighted as an example of ‘good practice’.
Coun Brenda Loynes, who was presenting her findings before the Health and Wellbeing Board, praised staff at the hospital and repeated the importance of offering the best services possible at the unit.
She said: “We commend the passion and the commitment of staff at the Hartlepool birthing centre and we remain committed to seeing a return of services to the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
“It’s only by working together we can influence true change in the provision of services, which the residents of Hartlepool need and deserve.
“I’ve known a few people who have had wanted to have babies in Hartlepool but were actually steered away from Hartlepool. Absolutely nothing wrong with them, they were fit and healthy, the births that I know went smoothly but they’ve been directed away from Hartlepool.
“I’d like to know if anyone from North Tees has been directed to Hartlepool because I don’t think that’s happened.
“We did have 7 or 8 obstetricians here several years ago which we transferred to North Tees while the new hospital was being built, that hasn’t happened. So now we really want those obstetricians.”
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service