RESIDENTS and councillors have been urged to write to their local MP about the proposed closure of the Trowbridge birthing unit.

Trowbridge mayor, Cllr David Cavill, said Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group's governing body had broken promises made during its public consultation.

Speaking at a full council meeting on Tuesday, he said: "This whole matter has been a total farce from beginning to end. Promises have been made and they have been broken.

"Nothing is a disaster and we will recover but nevertheless it is totally and absolutely unsatisfactory."

Deputy mayor Cllr Peter Fuller urged people to write to South West Wiltshire MP Dr Andrew Murrison to complain about last week's decision.

Cllr Fuller added: "I really don't think that we have been taken seriously in the least.

"They have made their plans and they just went through public consultation just for show. They just make up their minds and then they make up their excuses for doing what they made up their minds to do.

"We will kick up a fuss and make as much noise as possible and at the end of the day they will do what they want.

"The only thing we can do is for our community to write to our local MP. Andrew Murrison is a doctor and he does know what is needed for this area."

Wiltshire CCG's governing body last week voted to close two beds at the Trowbridge birthing unit from April. Antenatal and postnatal services will remain at Trowbridge once birthing stops.

The CCG plans to open new community hubs to give support for women who wish to give birth at home or who are having difficulty breastfeeding their new baby.

Chippenham birthing unit will stay open, but women will be encouraged to go one of the larger district hospitals in Bath, Swindon and Salisbury.

The CCG governing bodies plan to open new 'Alongside Midwifery Units' at the RUH in Bath and at Salisbury District Hospital to go with an existing AMU at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon.

The Paulton birthing unit in Somerset will close and four community antenatal and postnatal beds at Chippenham are to be phased out over the next 12 months.

They will be replaced by support closer to, or at women's homes, the CCG says.

Health bosses say it is safer and more efficient for women to give birth where specialists are on hand if needed.

Former midwife Marie Brooks said local units were safer for some mothers who want to give birth close to home.

Ms Brooks said: "It's all been proven that mums are much more relaxed if they come to somewhere nearer to home, in a friendly environment where they can have a happy, healthy birth."

Lucy Baker, director of service delivery at Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire CCGs, said over the past three years fewer women were choosing freestanding midwifery-led units.

"Lots of mums have told us throughout our engagement that they would like the option of an 'alongside-midwifery unit'.

"This is where a mum can have a midwife-led birth but if there are any concerns about the mum or the baby, they can be immediately transferred to an obstetric unit with all the support they might need."

NHS managers said 95 per cent of the time beds in the Trowbridge and Paulton midwifery units were empty.

They argue they need to staff more complex births and midwives need to work in larger maternity units to maintain and develop their skills.