this week

The time may not be right to spend£100m on maternity services, given that up to 40 per cent of units may be set to close, according to a HSJ source.

In a speech to the National Childbirth Trust last week, public health minister Yvette Cooper hammered home the government's pledge to improve maternity care with a promise of investment of£100m, 2,000 more midwives and one-to-one care for women in labour.

But HSJ understands that a report on the midwifery workforce due out later this year will foreshadow the closure of a significant number of maternity units.

The maternity workforce working group was set up by the government in February to look at recruitment, training, numbers and working conditions. It is thought that a 20-40 per cent cutback in maternity units will result from the European working time directive on midwives' working hours and the effect of guidance expected from the royal colleges.

The source added: 'The report is going to say we have a big, big problem. do not we think we ought to know what's happening before we get£100m?'