MAJOR concerns have been raised that “constant” staff shortages at Harwich’s maternity unit could seal its future and see it closed.

Town councillor Ivan Henderson said the unit being shut temporarily would significantly impact on the figures used to decide its longterm future.

A consultation is set to be carried out this year to decide midwifery changes, which could see Harwich’s maternity unit closed or downgraded to a birthing centre.

“It has been closing at night because staff have been moved to Colchester, taking away the choice which mothers are entitled to,” said Mr Henderson.

Statistics revealed this week that in a birthing centre in Halstead only three babies had been born in the last three years and Mr Henderson fears this could repeat in Harwich.

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said: “We restored a 24/7 midwifery presence at Harwich maternity unit on 6 January.

“Unfortunately, since then there have been three night shifts (9.30pm-7.30am) where we have been unable to maintain this arrangement and we have had to cover the unit with an on-call midwife."