Published: 21/11/2002, Volume II2, No. 5832 Page 8

The maternity ward at Guisborough General Hospital has been closed indefinitely due to a severe shortage of midwives across South Tees.The ward closed on15 November amid concerns about patient safety after it was revealed that there are 14 full-time midwife vacancies out of a complement of 128 at South Tees Hospitals trust. Letters have been sent to all expectant mothers explaining that they will be transferred to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough. Last year the ward handled 125 births compared to 3,320 at the James Cook University Hospital. Six midwives and a number of healthcare assistants will transfer from Guisborough to the James Cook until the unit can be reopened.

Langbaurgh primary care trust, which owns the hospital, says it has convened a group, including GPs and midwives, who will work with South Tees Hospitals trust to ensure the unit reopens 'as swiftly as possible'.