Hospital chiefs deny reports mums-to-be are being turned away from Hartlepool unit due to lack of staff
Health chiefs have denied reports that mums-to-be are being prevented from giving birth at Hartlepool's hospital due to staffing shortages.
Town MP Mike Hill wrote to the chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust seeking answers after approaches from constituents.
The trust says that is not the case, but says it is recruiting midwives to work in the birthing centre.
It comes after a Hartlepool Borough Council committee raised concerns over just three babies were born at the birthing centre last year – its lowest number since it changed from consultant to midwife-led in June 2008.
Figures obtained by the Mail last year revealed only nine births in 2016.
Mr Hill said: “When the figures were released last year there was a very real fear that the Birthing Unit was under threat of closure and recent approaches by constituents seems to be bearing that out.
“I have always said that people should have the right to be born and registered as being so in Hartlepool, and to have that right taken away from them is abysmal and a step too far.
“It strikes me that the demise of our maternity unit will mark the day when those in charge of our NHS Trust finally breaks faith with the people of the town by denying our citizens that basic right.
“If they do they will have a fight on their hands like no other.”
Councillors on the Audit and Governance scrutiny committee are investigating the use of the birthing centre amid the low numbers of births in recent years, with the chair Coun Brenda Loynes recently visiting Blackburn Birth Centre to see how similar sites work.
A spokesman for the hospital trust said: “We would like to assure Mr Hill that it is not the case that mothers are being turned away from the birthing centre at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
“We are actively recruiting midwives with the skills and experience to work in the birthing centre and will continue to work with parents-to-be to ensure their baby is delivered in the safest location.
“Women have the choice to book at both Hartlepool and North Tees hospital as well as for home delivery dependent on their past medical history.
“There are a number of factors that contribute to women choosing to give birth at Hartlepool, including the regional trend in the reduction in births and 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.
“We will work closely with Mr Hill to continue this work.”