EXPECTANT mums are being urged to give their opinions over the future of a North-East maternity unit.

Deliveries at the midwifery-led unit at Bishop Auckland Hospital have been suspended since July last year after County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said it could not guarantee a safe outcome should a complication develop during labour.

If a woman needed consultant-led care she would need to be transferred by ambulance to Darlington Memorial Hospital or The University Hospital of North Durham, Durham City.

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Prior to the temporary closure the North-East Ambulance Service exceeded its overall target of reaching 75 per cent of emergencies in eight minutes, however, the average response time to Bishop Auckland Hospital, where nearly a third of the five births each week require an ambulance transfer, was 25.2 minutes in April and 28 minutes in May.

The statistics relate to a variety of cases including traffic accident victims and people who suffered heart attacks, but there is no specific target for maternity calls.

Gill Findley, director of nursing with NHS Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “In July 2013, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust temporarily suspended midwife led maternity services at Bishop Auckland Hospital.

“As commissioners of the majority of health services on behalf of our local population, the CCG is keen to see a permanent solution for our patients.

“We are working closely with the provider and are proposing that an independent evaluation is carried out and a full exploration of options regarding the future of the maternity-led unit at Bishop Auckland.

“As part of this, we are keen to find out the views of current and prospective patients to ensure safety and choice are an integral part of a more permanent solution.”

At the moment expectant mothers have been offered midwife and consultant-led care in Durham and Darlington as well as options at other hospitals and home births.