Midwife-led unit may shut over staff shortage
A hospital in Buckinghamshire is considering temporarily closing its midwife-led unit (MLU) due to "extreme staff shortages".
Staff vacancies, annual leave and maternity leave will all affect Wycombe Hospital from 1 August, Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust said.
"The clinical view is that this would put patients at risk unless we plan ahead," a spokesman added.
The closure is among other options and a decision is yet to be made.
The MLU, which includes a birthing pool, is offered as a "homely" alternative to a maternity ward and has a "relaxed and welcoming environment", the trust said.
A main obstetric unit is available at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
"The lead doctor and midwife from our maternity services have indicated that there will be extreme staff shortages across the service from 1 August," the trust added.
"As patient safety is one of our highest priorities we are currently exploring options to ensure that we are still able to offer our patients safe maternity cover over this period."
"A temporary closure would only take place if there was a robust plan to reopen the unit."
The trust is in the process of recruiting 17 midwives, who are due to start work in October.
"This will help to ease the staffing situation and ensure that we are able to re-open the MLU by November at the latest," the spokesman added.
"The staffing problems do not affect any other services at Wycombe Hospital such as the antenatal services and breastfeeding clinics."
Midwives will contact patients to discuss alternatives if the unit closes.