Ashley Dalton outside Southend University Hospital Trust
Ashley Dalton outside Southend University Hospital Trust

Southend maternity ward shut twice last year due to lack of capacity

Rochford & Southend East Labour candidate Ashley Dalton has called for better local maternity facilities as shocking figures on temporary ward closures emerged.

Labour research found that almost half of England’s maternity units were forced to close temporarily to new mothers at some point during 2017.

The most commonly reported reasons for closures were capacity and staffing issues.

At Southend University Hospital NHS Trust, the maternity ward was twice forced to close to any further patients during 2017, for 12 hours on each occasion, because it was full. Women were redirected to other hospitals.

The ward also closed for 36 hours in December 2016 after a heating system fuel tank leak sparked an evacuation.

Ashley Dalton, the Labour candidate for Rochford & Southend East, said:

It is vital that women have access to good quality local maternity services when they need them most.

Childbirth can be a stressful and frightening time for mothers and their friends and families. Women should not have to face being turned away from their local maternity ward at such a crucial time.

We must ensure that midwives and other medical staff have the resources that they need to treat pregnant women safely, efficiently and with dignity.

We must also ensure that our NHS has enough midwives on hard to deal with demand. The Royal College of Midwives’ latest estimate is that the NHS in England has a shortage of 3,500 midwives.

More widely, data obtained by Labour under the Freedom of Information Act shows:

  •  There were at least 287 occasions when maternity units were closed to new mothers in 2017
  •  41 hospital trusts which responded to an FOI request said they temporarily closed maternity wards to new admissions at some point in 2017
  • Eight trusts had closures lasting more than 24 hours, while 11 trusts shut temporarily on more than ten separate occasions each in 2017

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for health, said:

Expectant mothers deserve reassurance that the local maternity unit will be there for them when needed. It is a disgrace that almost half of maternity units in England had to close to new mothers at some point in 2017. The uncertainty for so many women just when they need the NHS most is unthinkable.

Under this government, maternity units are understaffed and under pressure. Labour is committed to making child health an absolute priority with our ambition of the healthiest children in the world. That means giving every child the best start in life including proper investment in maternity services.

Every pregnant women turned away from a maternity unit due to staff shortages and shortages of beds and cots deserves an apology from Government ministers for the years of Tory cuts, deliberate under resourcing and mismanagement of the NHS. Mothers and babies deserve better than this.

For more information on Rochford & Southend East Labour or to arrange an interview with Ashley Dalton, please contact Rachel on 07599084650 or

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