THE birth centre at Royal Bournemouth Hospital has been closed due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on staffing levels.

In a statement, the hospital said women would instead be relocated to the maternity unit at Poole Hospital “for the foreseeable future” following Friday's (March 27) closure.

Director of nursing and midwifery, Paula Shobbrook said they could “no longer consistently provide safe care” in Bournemouth due to the impact the pandemic has had on staffing levels.

Women will now be relocated to Poole Hospital’s maternity unit for labour although the community midwives and home birthing and antenatal services are operating as normal across the Bournemouth and Christchurch area.

“To help us protect our patients and staff during the coronavirus pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to close our Bournemouth Birth Centre and relocate our women to Poole Maternity Unit for labour, for the foreseeable future,” Ms Shobbrook said.

“The safety of birthing women, their babies and our staff is absolutely paramount, but the current coronavirus situation and the impact on our staffing levels means we can no longer consistently provide safe care.

“We are also mindful of the pressures on the ambulance service, and by consolidating births on to one site, we will no longer need ambulances to carry out emergency or urgent transfers to Poole.”

She said the hospital had been working with the maternity team at Poole Hospital to make sure the transfer of services can be carried out “as swiftly and as smoothly as possible”.

While the birth centre has now closed, the antenatal clinic will continue at Royal Bournemouth Hospital, although it has been relocated to the orthopaedic outpatients department.

So long as “safe staffing levels” are still available the home birthing service will also still be running and everyone who has booked a home birth will be contacted individually.

But Ms Shobbrook said there would now be no midwives at Royal Bournemouth Hospital.

Lisa Relton, consultant midwife at Poole maternity unit, said they were “fully supportive” of the decision to close the Bournemouth birth centre.