Maternity services could come to an end in North Tyneside if new proposals are approved.
Consultation has begun on plans to stop baby deliveries at North Tyneside General Hospital from 2015, with women only receiving postnatal and antenatal services locally.
The proposal is for the free-standing midwifery-led unit at Rake Lane to no longer provide deliveries or inpatient care once the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital opens in Cramlington in 2015.
The new facility will feature a midwifery-led and medical-led units, with would-be mothers given the option of going there or the RVI in Newcastle.
Currently, low risk women in the borough can choose to have their babies at the midwifery-led unit at North Tyneside General, the birthing centre at the RVI or the medical-led units at the RVI or Wansbeck General Hospital.
If the proposals are approved, it would be the second change to the North Tyneside unit in six years.
In August 2007 itchanged from being consultant-led to midwifery-led.
Dr Ruth Evans, a borough GP and clinical director of NHS North Tyneside CCG, said: “Since the opening of the free-standing midwifery-led unit at North Tyneside General Hospital in 2007 we have seen a year on year reduction in the number of women delivering babies there, now standing at around four a week.
“More than 90 per cent of local women now deliver their babies outside North Tyneside.
“More than three-quarters give birth at RVI and the remainder mainly deliver at Wansbeck General Hospital, with a small number at North Tyneside.
“The reduction in deliveries at the free-standing midwifery-led unit is in line with changing national guidelines which mean that more women are now classed as high risk and therefore must deliver in a medical-led unit where there are obstetricians and other specialists present in case of complications.
“But it is also in line with what women are telling us about how while they value the care they receive from midwives, it is important to them to have the full maternity team available.
“Over the summer independent researchers spoke to more than 1,100 North Tyneside mothers and future mothers on our behalf and this was one of the key messages we received from them.”
She added: “With the opening of the new hospital at Cramlington in 2015, we felt we should take the opportunity now to see if any changes should be made to make sure that women receive the best possible services throughout their pregnancy and following the birth of their baby.”
The consultation, which launched on Monday, is due to end on March 14 next year.
Further information about the public consultation is available at www.northtynesideccg.nhs.uk, by calling (0191) 217 2670 or by emailing ContactNorthTynesideCCG@northoftyne.nhs.uk