The future of Shropshire’s three rural midwife-led units will not be decided on until early next year,

The three units at Oswestry, Ludlow and Bridgnorth, have been closed to births for 18 months, but are still used for ante and post-natal care.

A meeting of Shropshire Council’s Health and Wellbeing board was told that public consultation would be held around September.

Chris Morris, chief nurse for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “The units remain closed while the on-going maternity review is taking place.

“They are closed to births but open for care currently. If all goes to plan we are hoping the public consultation will start in September and will last eight weeks.

“This will then go to the CCG boards in the new year.

“In the meantime births are continiung as normal at Shrewsbury and Telford.”

Ms Morris also provided the board with an update on the rate of stillbirths happening within the trust.

Last year, it hit a rate of 3.7 per 1,000 – below the national and regional average.

She said: “We are starting to see real progress in this area. We recorded our lowest level of stillbirths and this is a positive step.

“Smoking is a big issue for us, especially in Telford & Wrekin and we need to do something different to target those women who smoke during their pregnancy because the number isn’t going down.

“It isn’t just mum herself who can work on this, it is a whole family thing and we are looking at what we can offer to support this better.”

In a report to the board, Fiona Ellis, local maternity system programme manager, said: “In 2018, the maternity service provider is reporting the lowest ever recorded rate of stillbirth for the Trust, with a rate of 3.7/1000.

“This compares to a national crude stillbirth rate of 3.9/1000 (latest figure from 2016) and the West Midlands rate of 4.3/1000 (latest figure from 2016).”

In 2015, the stillbirth rate in the county was 3.87 per 1,000 total births, a fall from 4.20 per 1,000 total births in 2013.

The report added: “SaTH has commenced additional ultrasound scanning clinics in Sutton Hill.

“The additional scan time enables women to undergo serial scans in pregnancy close to home.

“This enables more women to be able to more easily access these scans and helps maternity professionals to detect foetal growth restriction in women who wouldn’t otherwise have attended these scans.”