Expecting mums will be forced to travel miles to give birth after maternity units that were due to reopen this month will now remain closed due to continued “staffing constraints”.

Wantage Maternity unit and Cotswold Birth centre in Chipping Norton were both on course to reopen by the end of March after they were forced to shut their doors to “low-risk births” on August 26.

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Last week a presentation on hospital access and waiting times to Oxfordshire County Council’s Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee acknowledged “the disruption this has and continues to cause some families who will have to go to alternative sites”.

It said that “staffing constraints continue” but “the aim is to put a plan in place to reopen these units in March 2022”. 

However, the date has been delayed again and OUH said an announcement will be made when a date for reopening is finalised.

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Jenny Hannaby county councillor for Grove and Wantage has said it is a “huge disappointment” as expecting mums will now need to travel into Oxford or Wallingford to give birth.

Mrs Hannaby said: “Why should my mums-to-be have this extra stress when they have got a newly refurbished maternity unit that gave an excellent service right on their doorstep.”

She added: “It is a huge disappointment and another blow to the medical services in Wantage.”

Alison Cuthbertson, director of Midwifery at OUH, and Catherine Greenwood, clinical director for Maternity at OUH, said: “We are very sorry for the ongoing inconvenience we know the temporary closure of the Wantage and Chipping Norton midwifery-led units (MLUs) has caused women and their families.

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“Unfortunately, due to continuing staffing constraints, we are unable to re-open these sites at this time. We are disappointed that this remains the case and are sorry that the situation has stayed the same for some time.

“We aim to re-open these units as soon as we can do so safely. Although we hoped that a date could be set by now, absences, mostly due to COVID-19, remain very high.

“Thank you to our hardworking staff for continuing to provide safe care to women and for their ongoing support of families who are being cared for at our other sites.”

Other low risk birth services across Oxfordshire remain unchanged. There is the Horton General Hospital MLU in Banbury, north Oxfordshire, and Wallingford Maternity and Birthing Centre (MLU) in the south. These run alongside the Oxford Spires MLU at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

The home birth service is running as usual, and women are advised to call their midwife if they have any concerns.

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