Wigan’s maternity unit was so busy twice in the past year staff turned to other hospitals for help, borough health chiefs have revealed.
Wigan Infirmary bosses say that while they did not need to close the unit, they did turn to neighbouring units for assistance.
On two occasions, due to demands on the service, we formally requested support from our neighbouring trusts to accept admissionsMary Fleming
On both occasions, the request for help did not result in any expecting mothers being admitted to other hospitals.
The incidents have been highlighted by new figures which state more than a third of maternity units had to temporarily close during the last year due to being over-capacity.
Mary Fleming, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust director of operations, said: “On no occasion over the past 12 months has it been necessary to close our maternity unit.
“However on two occasions, due to demands on the service, we formally requested support from our neighbouring trusts to accept admissions. During this time period no ladies were admitted to the neighbouring trusts.” Leading midwives have warned that more than a third of maternity units were forced to shut their doors to women in labour because they could not cope with demand. A new poll conducted among senior midwives revealed that units closed their doors on 281 separate occasions.
The RCM said the number of closures was a reflection of the rising demands on services, as well as increasingly complex births and issues with staffing levels.
The poll, which was completed by 53 per cent of the heads of midwifery around the UK, found nine in 10 believed their unit was dealing with more complex cases than last year.
Almost two in five said that they did not have enough midwives to cope with extra demands.
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: “Yet again we are seeing senior midwives describing services that are being battered by increasing demands, inadequate resources and staffing shortages.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We want midwives to feel they have time and support to give good care. Our changes to student funding are creating thousands more training places.”