Almost 500 people have put their names to a petition which urges health bosses not to close St Mary’s Birthing Centre in Melton.
The unit could be moved to the campus of Leicester General Hospital under proposals which would make major changes to the health service in Leicestershire.
But campaigners want to see the service stay in the town.
The petition states: “We firmly believe that Melton needs its Birthing Unit. As a much loved, vital service, it forms an important piece of the jigsaw for women and their families requiring maternity care.
“The unit gives pregnant mothers a choice in the ethos of care and being local it saves the long drive when in labour. Furthermore, it provides wonderful aftercare, including support around breastfeeding and mothers mental health.
Health bosses say that not enough women are opting to have their babies at the centre, with on average three babies a week born there last year.
They say that to make it ‘viable’ there would need to be at least 500 births a year.
Part of the £450 million transformation includes an £88 million maternity hospital, with a midwifery-led birthing centre, delivery suites and a neonatal unit all under the same roof.
A spokesperson for the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland CCGs said: “We believe the under-utilisation is due to concerns regarding proximity to emergency care and acute support, making the service no longer viable.
“There are also women who planned to have their baby at Melton, but due to complications are rushed to Leicester to have their baby, which is very traumatic.
“The new maternity hospital, and potentially the midwifery-led unit at the General, would allow for women to be closer to support services should it be needed.”
The consultation leaflet which sets out the plans for maternity services states: “At present, mothers in labour are routinely transferred from one hospital site to another if there are too many births taking place in one of the units, or not enough staff are available on a unit to provide adequate care.
“Care provided for babies born prematurely or ill is currently split across two sites.
“St Mary’s midwifery-led unit in Melton Mowbray is under-used despite efforts to promote services, with less than three births per week on average.
“By building a new £88 million maternity hospital we will improve the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of the service and provide better care for mothers and their babies.”
Under the proposals, some community based midwifery services would remain in Melton and a midwifery-led birthing centre, similar to St Mary’s, would be worked into plans for the Leicester General Hospital site. Home births and aftercare would remain an option for women across both the city and county.
A spokesperson for the CCGs added: “We launched a public consultation on 28th September which included proposals to relocate the standalone birthing centre at St Mary’s Hospital in Melton Mowbray to the General Hospital. We strongly urge people to find out more about the proposals and fill in a questionnaire at www.betterhospitalsleicester.nhs.uk. You can also attend one of our virtual events. The consultation is an opportunity for people to explain exactly how they will be impacted. The best way of doing that is by filling in the questionnaire.”
The petition can be found here.