An Essex trust which temporarily closed two maternity units sparking outcry from residents and MPs should re-open them but only as “on demand” birthing units, a trust director has recommended.

Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust’s board will need to ratify the decision at a meeting on 12 June before it is given the green light.

A report paper by Amanda Hallums, divisional director - women’s and children’s services, said: “On the basis of the risk assessment it is recommended that option 2 – reopen “on demand“ as birth centres be agreed by the trust board subject to working with North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group.”

A trust spokesman told HSJ: “[If the new arrangements are rubber stamped] women who go into labour will ring a hotline number, as they always have.

“During the day, this will be picked up by midwives located at the two units but at night (when there will be no midwives at Clacton and/or Harwich), calls will be picked up by the Juno Suite, the midwife-led at Colchester General Hospital, who will then alert an on-call midwife.”

The initial closure of the two coastal units at Harwich and Clacton, which were 24/7 midwife-led units, was met with substantial opposition from residents and local MPs when the trust announced its decision in March.

The trust reviewed its maternity services because its midwife to birth ratio at Colchester General Hospital, which has an average 70 births a week, was 1:39 – considerably higher than the Department of Health guidelines which propose a 1:29 ration.

The ratios in Clacton (1:18) and Harwich are (1:14) much lower and there are only five births across both sites in an average week, according to the trust.

Local campaigners said the decision was “absolutely horrendous”.

Jenny Semple, who is leading a campaign against the changes, said: “We want them to open it 24/7. If it reopens as a birthing centre there will be no aftercare for women who are giving birth there.

“Midwife led units are what NICE are recommending. A lot of the women here are first time mums with no family to support them after giving birth. It is absolutely horrendous.”