Council bosses are aiming to increase the ‘worrying’ number of babies born at Hartlepool’s birthing centre after just three deliveries at the unit last year.
The figures follow fears which were raised last year for the future of the maternity unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool by the council’s Audit and Governance Scrutiny Committee.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust bosses said there were three deliveries in the Hartlepool centre in 2017 and five home births in the town.
The Trust said there are a number of factors contributing to the amount of women choosing to give birth at Hartlepool and they are committed to providing quality care.
Committee chairwoman, Coun Brenda Loynes said it is important to encourage more people to use the Hartlepool unit to keep the service in the town.
She said: “We want to increase the birth rate. At the moment it’s worrying. It’s a shame, the Hartlepool unit is spot on.
“A lot of babies are being born in Stockton and registered in Stockton.
“I think we need to have a real look at this and encourage families to give birth here.
“We want to keep our services in Hartlepool.”
Figures obtained by the Mail last year showed that, since the maternity unit in Hartlepool became midwife-led in June 2008, town births plummeted from 452 in 2009 to just 34 in 2015 and only nine in 2016.
This lead to the Audit and Governance Committee pledging to investigate the use of the birthing centre and Coun Loynes visiting the Blackburn Birth Centre to view how similar sites work.
She said she this can be used to help improve Hartlepool services.
Coun Loynes said: “I was very impressed with the centre and how it is run and I am now looking forward to visiting Hartlepool’s birthing centre with my colleagues.
“We’re very keen to increase the number of births at the midwife-led centre at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and this visit will help us compare the two units.”
Hartlepool’s midwife-led Cameron Birthing Centre opened in June 2008 after a £5million refurbishment.
It was part of a shake-up of maternity services which saw the transfer of consultant-led maternity services to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
The Blackburn Birth Centre first opened in 2010 and in June last year celebrated its 5,000 birth at the centre.
Coun Loynes said there was 44 births at the centre in January alone this year.
A North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust trust spokesperson said: “In 2007, an Independent Reconfiguration Panel recommended that consultant-led services for maternity should be centralised on one site at North Tees, and that a midwife-led maternity unit should be provided at University Hospital Hartlepool until the opening of the new proposed hospital.
“The midwifery-led birthing centre at the University Hospital of Hartlepool opened in 2008 as part of the planned reconfiguration of the maternity services within North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.
“It offers extensive maternity support including pre and postnatal care, optimising the health of women giving birth in the area.
“There were three deliveries in the Hartlepool Centre in 2017 and 5 home births in the town.
“There are a number of factors that contribute to the number of women choosing to give birth at Hartlepool.
“These include the regional trend in the reduction in births of around five per cent, the wider issue of health risk in the locality and a gradual shift of women choosing to deliver at the University Hospital of North Tees.
“The trust is committed to providing good quality care to its patients and is on a continuous journey of improvement.
“Where necessary, it will work closely with the Audit and Governance Committee to continue this work.”
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service