The number of mothers within a 30 minute drive of a midwife-led unit will drop by almost 14 per cent under a planned shake-up of services.

Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council’s Joint Health Overview Scrutiny Committee heard discussed changes to the rural midwife units in Shropshire at a meeting on Wednesday.

Under the plans, the units in Oswestry, Ludlow and Bridgnorth will close to births, leaving mums able to give birth at Telford or Shrewsbury – or at home.

But Gill George, chairman of Shropshire Defend Our NHS, said she was worried about the impact of the changes.

Dr Jess Sokolov, medical director at Shropshire CCG, gave a presentation at the meeting, which showed the percentage of women within 30 minutes of a place of birth reduces from 92.7 per cent to 78.4 per cent. 

Ms George said: “As expected, all the rural maternity units are to close permanently, with births to take place only at RSH and PRH.

“This ignores the outcomes of extensive engagement work carried out by Shropshire CCG, by SaTH and by local maternity campaigners.

“We know of the strong commitment of women in Oswestry, Bridgnorth and Ludlow to retaining local birthing facilities and to retaining the choice of inpatient postnatal care.

“These findings are ignored, with no acknowledgement of the views of 100s of rural women who have given the time to give feedback.”

She added: “There is no attempt from our CCGs to learn from Powys, running a network of rural MLUs and a successful home birth service.

“There is a model here that works and meets the needs of a rural area well. Why has this not been considered?

“There is also still no clarity on the location of the community hubs.

“What are the consequences for Bridgnorth women of losing the access to care they have now? 

“The consequences of Oswestry woman, if the toss of the coin goes against them? There are passing comments about outreach services, but no explanation or commitment of them being meaningful.”

Dr Sokolov said: “It’s important to remember that these are proposals and will go to the public.

“The options that have rated highest are the to main maternity hubs at Telford and Shrewsbury and units not open to births elsewhere.”

She added: “They are deemed the most suitable proposals and when fully agreed will go out for consultation for at least eight weeks.

“The impact of reducing the number of midwifery led birth locations overall makes a marginal difference, as the vast majority of women give birth in the consultant unit. (85 per cent).

“Overall, mean journey time (weekday by own transport) to place of birth (including consultant led births) increases from 22 minutes to 22.7 minutes.

“This is  significant change, but the eight week consultation will be very thorough and that is within the legal requirement.”