A maternity campaigner has warned pregnant women are being "emotional blackmailed" into not using Oswestry's maternity unit.

Liz Grayston said she has had an influx of messages from women who were told their births would be high risk must either use the consultant-led unit at the Princess Royal Hospital or give birth at home.

It comes after health bosses revealed births at Oswestry would be suspended for more than a fortnight from last Friday, blaming the decision on mothers-to-be for not choosing the maternity-led unit (MLU) and wanting to remove "uncertainty".

Liz Grayston, from Save Oswestry Maternity Unit group, said women are more anxious because they can't deliver at Oswestry.

She continued: "They keep saying women are choosing to deliver at the CLU when what is really happenings from speaking to these women is that no-one is choosing to give birth there, they are being told to give birth there or they can still opt for a home birth if they are high risk but most women if they are advised to are going to go to the CLU - that's not a choice, that's emotional blackmail."

The suspension - the seventh since the unit was reopened to births on January 1 - comes after the Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) voted in favour of stopping births at the rural MLUs of Oswestry, Bridgnorth and Ludlow.

The previous suspensions were put down to staff shortages, despite the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) having a recruitment drive, however Deirdre Fowler, director of Nursing and Midwifery, told a board meeting last week that many of the new midwives have recently qualified and cannot work without supervision.

Mrs Grayston added: "They haven't staffed to the level they need to run five MLUs. They reopened Shrewsbury MLU last week and clearly they are not enough midwives and loser in that battle this time round has been Oswestry.

"I believe the reason for that is because we have Wrexham [consultant-led unit] and are pre-empting the CCGs' proposal."

Councillor Paul Milner, who has worked with the campaign group, said the suspension is "disappointing," adding: "It's very disappointing how SaTH have handled it. It feels like it did 12 months ago, it feels like the unit is shutting its doors.

"It is important we keep it in Oswestry and we should do all we can to ensure it remains."

Sarah Jamieson, head of Midwifery at SaTH, said only 10 births since January 1 have taken place at the rural MLUs while 474 have taken place at Shrewsbury MLU, Wrekin MLU in Telford and the CLU.

She added: “We know that the subject of our MLUs is an emotive one but this decision, which we have not made lightly, is purely about the choice our women are making and about maintaining their safety.

"With 98 per cent of women giving birth away from our rural MLUs, it is important that our midwives are where our mums are.

“By taking this step, we aim to remove the uncertainty that short notice suspension of services causes."

The MLU will remain open for prenatal and out-patient post-natal care between 8am and 8pm during the suspension.