CONCERNS have been raised about the number of midwives available to cover a newly-reopened birthing centre.

Harwich Town Councillor Garry Calver has said a number of midwifery staff reportedly left Clacton and Harwich maternity units during the time when they were closed between March and July this year.

Hospital bosses shut the wards due to a staff shortage in Colchester.

Since then the equivalent of 5.6 midwives have been recruited to fill vital gaps and both the units reopened as on demand birthing units.

But if the latest reported departures are correct, Mr Calver said the service could still be suffering a midwife shortfall.

Speaking at the latest Harwich Town Council meeting he said: “It has been brought to my attention that since the recruitment of 5.6 midwives to ease the perceived shortage at least four midwives have left,” he said.

“If this is the case then the retention within the midwife industry is going to be an even bigger problem.

“This has been brought to my attention but I do not know it to be the case.”

Maternity bosses said although some midwives have left since the recruitment, it would not affect the future of the units.

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Trust said: “The 5.6 midwives is the uplift we had to increase our establishment and this has been recruited into.

“We have had some midwives leave or reduce their hours and this vacancy has been advertised and recruited into.

“The vacancy is not always filled by employing new staff; a proportion of it is filled by existing staff increasing their hours or staff who are on maternity leave returning to work.

“Our vacancy will be approximately three midwives or the working time equivalent at the end of August and we will have an advert out to fill this.

“The units at Harwich and Clacton are fully-staffed and their futures are not in doubt.”