Berkshire

Heatherwood Hospital birth unit closes due to staff shortages

A birthing unit at a Berkshire hospital has had to close temporarily due to staff sickness and maternity leave.

The Ascot Birth Centre at Heatherwood Hospital is a midwife-led unit with three rooms for low-risk mothers-to-be.

Director of nursing Deirdre Thompson said: "We would like to apologise for any upset or inconvenience."

Outpatient clinics, antenatal and postnatal care will continue as normal. There is no confirmed date for the birthing unit to reopen.

Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has the highest rate of midwife vacancies, a freedom of information request by the BBC programme Panorama revealed in July.

A hospital spokeswoman said the birth centre had "for some time been experiencing an unprecedented level of long-term staff sickness and maternity leave".

She added that "every effort" had been made to secure extra midwives.

The Trust said mothers-to-be who were due to give birth at Heatherwood have been contacted to discuss alternative arrangements.

The number of mothers giving birth at the hospital averages one a day.

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