READERS have reacted to the temporary closure of a maternity unity saying it is a 'sad and appalling situation'.

Birth services at Helme Chase Maternity Unit at Westmorland General Hospital, Kendal, are temporarily suspended for six months.

The midwife-led unit supports approximately two births per month and has been experiencing significant staffing issues over recent months.

Responding to the news, readers have shared their thoughts.

Sue Layfield said it was a 'sad and appalling situation in 2024 when we don't have enough staff or specialist midwives'.

She continued: "What on earth is happening to our reliable health service. The answer is neglect and abuse from the very top of the people that worked for years and years, wanting to help the sick, to feel rewarded. Well, this is probably just the start of the big picture. God help us."

Maria Baker said: "It is a shame there is not enough funding to train more midwives, the ones that are there are stressed, over worked and under payed."

Deborah Fawcett remembers having both her sons in the maternity ward in 1997 and 1999.

She said: "First son was a straightforward birth but I still stayed in 4 nights. The second was a planned C section and I stayed in for a week. Got looked after so well. How times change."

Annie McNaughton said: "Only 2 births a month there on average, not sustainable or cost efficient to keep it open in that case. Why is it so few though?"

Whilst birth services will be temporarily suspended, antenatal and postnatal care plus outpatient appointments at Helme Chase will continue as normal. The Trust’s home birth service and consultant-led birth services at Furness General Hospital and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary remain unchanged. 

Sue Stansfield, Interim Director of Midwifery, UHMBT, said: “We no longer have the number of midwives available to safely staff the unit and its on-call arrangement that are in place overnight and at weekends - despite ongoing work to recruit to vacant posts. Therefore, we are making the difficult decision to temporarily suspend birth services at the unit for a period of six months.  

“This period will allow us to offer safe home birthing and birth services at our other two units, whilst working with maternity teams to review the way we use our colleagues across the Trust. The aim of this will be to develop a new way of working that will ensure we offer a safe and high-quality service to our local communities, whilst also supporting and developing our teams.

“Even though birth numbers at Helme Chase are low, we appreciate that it will impact a small number of women and pregnant people that might have chosen to give birth in the unit. We are contacting all individuals who may be impacted directly to discuss their choices with them."