Health chiefs have given more details on the reasons behind the proposed closure of the St Mary’s Birth Centre in Melton after the plan was questioned by councillors.
The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust said the move would be subject to a full consultation but added that maternity staff and resources are not currently being used effectively.
The local health authority told the Melton Times last year that a consultation was likely to take place in the spring of this year but a date has not yet been set.
Around 140 babies a year are born at the birthing centre but the trust said that a centre of its type needs 500 or more births a year to provide value for money.
Ian Scudamore, clinical director of maternity services at Leicester’s Hospitals, said: “With around 10,500 babies born locally in six locations, our staff and resources are not being used effectively.
“This configuration can put pressure on services in one or more locations at any particular time. It is also not equitable for all mums and their families.
“These issues have been recognised in a number of reviews of our maternity services, which have consistently said that in their current form they are unsustainable.
“Our priority is ensuring that future maternity services are of high quality, provide choice, are fairly available to all women and affordable with the money we have available to us.”
Councillors at a recent meeting of the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland joint health scrutiny committee asked why the closure plans remain in place despite St Mary’s being the only hospital rated good across the board in a recent Care Quality Commission inspection.
Plans outlined by the trust say that hospital-based elements of women’s services, including gynaecology, neonatal care and maternity will all be available at Leicster Royal Infirmary.
Some outpatient appointments and procedures will continue to be available in community hospitals and midwives will continue to provide antenatal and postnatal care in the community.
Mr Scudamore added: “Subject to public consultation, we would like to consider whether we provide a stand-alone midwifery birth centre away from the royal infirmary site.
“If, after consultation a stand-alone birth centre is to be provided then it will need to be available to as many women in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland as possible and have sufficient activity to be financially sustainable. This will require 500-plus births per year.”
The trust say they want to reorganise maternity services in a bid to provide ‘the highest quality, fairest and best value for money’ service.
Proposals would see in-patient maternity services provided by midwives and doctors in a combined care unit at the royal infirmary, supported by the neonatal intensive care unit in case of emergencies.
There would be a midwife-only birth centre located at the royal infirmary near to the combined care unit, a home birth team staffed by midwives, and subject to public consultation, a midwifery-only birthing centre, most likely located at Leicester General Hospital.
Mr Scudamore added: “Our priority remains to give women and their families a choice of safe, comprehensive, high quality services that are sustainable for the long-term.”