The future of the midwife led maternity service at Stafford's County Hospital could be at risk, because not enough babies are being born there.
Around 350 babies need to be born each year at the hospital for the midwife-led service to remain viable, Staffordshire County Council has heard.
But the current number of births taking place at County Hospital is falling far short of this number.
Tracy Bullock, the new Chief Executive of University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust, which runs County Hospital, repeated the message at Monday’s meeting that there were no plans to close the A&E department in Stafford.
Fears have been raised again in recent days about the future of County Hospital’s A&E by residents and community leaders as a consultation on the future of healthcare services in Staffordshire got underway.
But Mrs Bullock added: “I do have real concerns about the birthing unit. “We have set about a campaign in terms of trying to encourage the use of the birthing unit. Our mothers have their antenatal appointments there and they are shown around the unit – unfortunately it just isn’t used.
“The midwives are dealing with somewhere in the region of one to three births a month and that isn’t enough – that’s nowhere near enough. It’s not safe and it’s not effective, it saps the motivation of staff who have to sit there night after night and do nothing.
“We need to be achieving in the region of 350 births a year for that to be a viable obstetrics unit. If we can’t achieve that we seriously need to be asking some questions.”
Stafford county and borough councillor Carolyn Trowbridge said she was “horrified” to hear the number of births taking place at County Hospital was one to three a month. “Do you think this is down to bad publicity?” she asked.
“I had both my children there and it is a wonderful service. There are people out there scaremongering all the time and it gets the general public of Stafford worried.”
The consultant-led obstetric service moved from Stafford to Stoke in 2015, leaving a midwife-led service at County Hospital which can be used for births considered of a lower risk.
Speaking at a listening event in Stafford on Thursday, Staffordshire CCGs’ accountable officer Marcus Warnes said that just one baby was born at County Hospital in February.
He said: “If mothers want to have maternity services continue to be provided at County Hospital they need to use them. You have a choice – exercise that choice.”
But Gnosall Parish Councillor Gail Gregory responded: “This is a tiny bit disingenuous – even a normal pregnancy can turn into an emergency. With a consultant down the corridor more people will make that decision.
“They won’t gamble with their lives or their children’s lives. That’s why numbers are falling and it’s no wonder why people won’t go there.”