A FRUSTRATED midwife has hit back at an MP’s claims that a fully functional maternity unit should be shut down due to “safety”.

Labour MP Julie Elliott, who represents Sunderland Central, appeared on the BBC Sunday Politics programme and said the “temporary” closure of the wing at South Tyneside Hospital was necessary on safety grounds.

However, South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has said she is outraged by the shut-down, which was suddenly announced at the start of the month, and fears the shock move is part of a deliberate attempt to wind down the hospital.

Since the announcement, at the beginning of the month, that the fully staffed and equipped unit would no longer allow in any pregnant women, expectant mothers have been told they must now have their babies elsewhere, with many considering home births.

Last Friday, campaigners and supporters of the unit took to the streets outside the hospital to air their anger about the closure.

Now, a midwife has spoken of her frustration at the situation she and her colleagues have been forced into, which involves them turning up for shifts but being banned from treating patients. The worker, who wants to remain anonymous, has rejected outright any claim that the unit is or ever has been unsafe.

Derek Curry, Head of Midwifery at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are continuing to work very closely with our staff to look at all possible solutions to try and resolve the severe staffing challenges we face in our Special Care Baby Unit.”

He added: “We have been absolutely clear, however, that any suggestions put forward must be safe and sustainable so that we do not end up in a similar crisis situation in the immediate weeks ahead.”