CAMPAIGNERS have demanded a reprieve for Tendring’s maternity units after a powerful health body said they offered the best care for most mothers and babies.

Fears have been raised for the future of midwife-led units in Clacton and Harwich since they were closed to new births in March.

Health bosses claim the move was temporary to cover staff shortages in Colchester, but campaigners fear the units could shut for good.

But a report this week by NICE - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - said healthy women having a straightforward pregnancy should be encouraged to give birth in midwife-led units rather than traditional labour wards.

The advice is part of draft proposals now under consultation. NICE is an independent body responsible for driving improvement in the healthcare system.

Clacton’s Labour general election candidate Tim Young has called on Colchester Hospital Trust to take the report into consideration when deciding on the future of Tendring’s maternity units.

NHS bosses in north-east Essex welcomed the latest guidance.

A spokesman said: “In particular we welcome the renewed emphasis on encouraging more low-risk women to give birth at home and we endorse the recommendation that low-risk women should have the option of giving birth at a midwife-led unit, such as the Juno suite at Colchester Hospital.

“The maternity units at both Harwich and Clacton community hospitals can offer choice for local low-risk mothers and so increase the options for mothers to choose a midwife-led maternity unit."

The closure of the units in Clacton and Harwich are set to be reviewed by the trust in June.