The decision to close a maternity unit for six months was “not taken lightly” and was done with the safety of mothers and children in mind, it has been claimed.

The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) said the Copthorne maternity building will close from June 10.

The trust’s chief executive Simon Wright, said asbestos is in the building and work could not be carried out with new mothers and baby’s inside.

He told a meeting of SaTH’s board on Thursday: “We did everything we can to see if it was possible to keep the building open while work was carried out.

“But like a lot of buildings from that era it is not in good condition and asbestos has been found within it.

“It is therefore simply not safe to allow births to continue there while the work is taking place.

“The decision wasn’t taken lightly and it is not something we want to do but it will result in a much better service when it is re-open, a building much more fit for purpose.”

The temporary closure was confirmed on Thursday morning and will mean the maternity unit at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford and the Wrekin MLU will be the only places in Shropshire where women can give birth, except at home.

In the first five months of 2019 there have been 29 births at Shrewsbury MLU.

He said all women booked to give birth at the unit would be offered a birth at Telford.

Mr Wright also gave an update on the future of the rural midwife-led units in Gobowen, Bridgnorth and Ludlow.

He said he was still confident that public consultation on the future of the three units would still begin in June.

This comes despite comments last week from Chris Morris, chief nurse for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups, who said she believed the consultation would start in September.

She said a decision on the future of the units would be taken in the new year.

Mr Wright said: “Nobody has told me otherwise about it being June. I know we are almost in June, but I haven’t been told it won’t start that month.”

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