A FATHER-to-be has hit out at health bosses after an under-threat maternity facility had to run as a downgraded birthing centre just hours after it was due to reopen round the clock.

Simon Collis had to visit the maternity unit at the Fryatt Hospital in Dovercourt at 5.30am on Tuesday when his heavily-pregnant wife Becky began what she thought were contractions.

But after a telephone consultation Mr Collis of Clayton Road, Ramsey was told that an on-call midwife would have to come from Colchester because the unit was understaffed.

It was revealed in October the unit would be run overnight by on-call midwives until Monday January 6 when two new midwives would be appointed to allow the centre to be staffed full-time.

“It is worrying times, especially since it had not even been reopened for a day yet,” said Mr Collis, who has set up a Facebook page calling for Harwich and Clacton’s maternity units to be saved.

A spokesman for the local NHS said: “Unfortunately, because of short-term sickness at Colchester General Hospital, the midwife who was due to be at the Harwich unit had to go into Colchester.

“Therefore the shift was covered by an on-call Harwich midwife in the same way it was before January 6.

“A woman will always be supported by two midwives when she gives birth at Harwich at night and there was a possibility another woman might deliver at Harwich that night."