A maternity unit at a Tyneside hospital is to close once a new emergency care site is open next year.
The unit at North Tyneside General Hospital will shut when the new facility at Cramlington opens, following a decision by health chiefs.
Officials at the NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group’s Council of Practices approved the closure of the midwifery-led unit at Rake Lane, which will mean no more births at the hospital and no inpatient postnatal care for women who give birth elsewhere.
Expectant mothers in North Tyneside will now have the choice to give birth at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle, owned by Newcastle Hospitals, or the new Cramlington hospital, being built by Rake Lane owners Northumbria Healthcare, with both having midwifery-led and medical-led units.
Dr Ruth Evans, a North Tyneside GP and a clinical director of the CCG, said: “We have given very careful consideration to all of the feedback we received before making our decision.
“We have a great opportunity now to progress discussions with both foundation trusts to make sure that women continue to receive the best possible care at all stages of their pregnancy.”
Currently, only ‘low-risk’ mothers give birth at North Tyneside, which has resulted in an average of four births a week at the unit.
A three-month consultation took place from December to gauge local opinion.
Members of the CCG’s governing body were told at a meeting on Tuesday there were two key issues raised during the consultation – the need for postnatal care and transport links to the new hospital in Cramlington.
Dr Evans said mothers were most concerned about the loss of postnatal care which gave them confidence and support to breastfeed and ask questions.
She said: “As we’ve heard about natal care we’ve realised we’ve got work to do on this.
“That work has begun. We want to offer something that is really excellent for the women of North Tyneside.
“This is postnatal care which is really valued by a small number of women.
“We want to do something which really promotes strong postnatal care for the majority of women.”
The consultation also showed North Tyneside midwives backed the move.