An NHS worker in Gloucestershire has said temporary closures of maternity units are taking away women's birth choices and are 'dangerous'.
The Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said on Friday 18 March: "We are making some short-term temporary changes to ensure services remain safe, while retaining choice for families."
It said the decision was "in response to extreme staffing pressures in midwifery related to COVID sickness and isolation."
The following measures are in place until Tuesday 22 March:
Gloucester Birth Unit facilities will be temporarily relocated into the main delivery suite. The phone lines will continue to be staffed and people will be guided to choose to either have their baby in the delivery suite rooms reserved for this or to access alternative facilities at Stroud or Cheltenham Aveta.
Community teams in Gloucester will be running a weekend-type service that concentrates on clinics rather than home visits, although these will be accommodated in special circumstances.
At Stroud Maternity, early discharge to home will be encouraged, rather than the provision of postnatal beds. If a mother or baby requires postnatal care that requires monitoring, this will be accommodated on the maternity ward at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital as usual.
The home birth service is unaffected and will be supported by the unit midwife on call and a senior midwife in addition to community midwives.
A staff member at a Gloucestershire maternity unit, who does not wish to be named, said they are worried about colleagues, mums and babies because midwives are exhausted as they continued to deal with the fallout of the pandemic.
They also feel asking mothers to leave the hospital sooner could result in babies not being able to feed and other problems.
They said: “This is not good. Women are going to have to go to the delivery suite and not have the birth they were expecting. Women’s choice is being taken away from them.
“Women will only have the choice to go to the labour ward and not get support they need after there.
"Normally women have the opportunity to go to Stroud after they have had a baby at the Gloucester maternity unit, but they are being told they will have to leave two hours later.
“The midwives and staff have buckled. There is no staff and it is because of both Covid and exhaustion and mental health.
"I feel sick to my stomach for Gloucestershire maternity staff and the women at the moment. It is worrying and dangerous.
“Staff are traumatised and feel like a conveyor belt delivering babies and sending mother and baby home.
"The system is falling apart and closing the units will not make it better.”
The employee worries about the aftermath of midwives not being able to give mums the support they wish and worries babies will not thrive as they should, saying: “The staff are shattered. They are having to deny the women the care they want to give.
“We want to be able to give mothers time. The time, experience and happiness of the maternity staff and midwives does not seem to matter.”
Gloucestershire NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive Deborah Lee said: "We are very sorry if anyone’s planned birthing experience may need to change at short notice but hope that everyone will appreciate that our priority remains the safety of mothers and their babies."