Norfolk hospital forced to shut maternity unit 24 times

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

A Norfolk hospital closed its maternity unit more times than almost any other hospital in Britain last year.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, closed its doors to pregnant mums 24 times last year, making it the fifth-worst in Britain in a BBC investigation.

Health watchdogs placed the hospital in special measures last October, citing a lack of nurses as a concern.

Valerie Newton, deputy director of nursing and patient experience, said closures were based on staffing levels.

'The trust is always concerned when any closure impacts on our patient services. It should be noted when the unit is closed, the closure is reviewed on a four-hourly basis.'

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Jo Segasby, director of women, children's and cancer services at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said the demand for services there has grown. She said: 'There were 14 closures of the delivery suite from April 2013 to March 2014 with fewer once the unit expanded.

'We make every effort to accommodate women in labour and a decision to temporarily close the maternity unit is not taken lightly.'

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A spokesman for the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston said it has not experienced any maternity unit closures.

But Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, described the situation as the 'tip of the iceberg'.

She said: 'It is a sign of serious underlying problems in maternity services. England remains seriously short of midwives and we still need another 4,500 extra midwives in the NHS, now. When units close their doors it leaves those women turned away possibly upset and disappointed because they are not giving birth in the unit of their choice.

She added: 'It is also very worrying for those women who... may be distressed to have to travel to another unit, possibly some miles away.'

Have you been turned away by a maternity unit? Email

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