A plan to turn rural Shropshire’s Midwife Led Units (MLU) into ‘community hubs’ would see expectant mothers choose between home births, or travelling to Shrewsbury or Telford.

Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has proposed that rural maternity care units, such as Oswestry, Bridgnorth and Ludlow, would be closed to births and instead be turned into ‘community hubs’, which offer support from midwives for 12 hours a day.

The CCG undertook surveys with women across the county to discuss what the best options for birth are, and after completing the survey, they have put together the new proposal.

Controversy has surrounded the MLUs after multiple closures throughout the year because of staffing issues, and Oswestry MLU is currently closed until the beginning of next year.

In August, Simon Wright, chief executive of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital (SaTH) Trust, described the loss of MLUs in Shropshire as “unthinkable” and pledged to protect the units.

Upon hearing Shropshire CCG’s proposal to close rural MLUs to birth, health campaigner Gill George said: “How dare they? They’re playing games with the lives of women and babies.”

Liz Grayston, co-ordinator of the Oswestry Maternity campaign, added: “They have yet to get it through consultation – in front of the women they have apparently ‘listened’ to.

“Last time in Oswestry, 11 years ago, the crowd was so large and angry that we just couldn’t be ignored. It’s time for repeats across our county. They have a fight on their hands.”

In the Shropshire CCG proposal, it states: “The maternity hubs will ensure that women across the county have equal access to services close to home.

“Women will have improved access to a range of services related to pregnancy – they can access them from the same place and the way the service is delivered will enable women to build relationships with other women accessing the services.

“It is proposed that a team of community midwives and women’s support assistants will be available 24/7 to offer advice and support after the woman has given birth (this will be available from as soon as the mother returns home, or as soon as the midwife who delivered the baby at home has left). This support and advice will be available either in person, through a video call, or over the phone.”

The proposal will be presented to Shropshire’s CCG governing body later this month and Telford and Wrekin CCG governing body in January, before it is intended to go out to consultation.