I am absolutely appalled at the latest ridiculous idea by the Government to scrap the maternity unit at the Royal Free Hospital.

This issue is very personal to me, as both my children were born the Royal Free, and maternity services there were crucial to my own health, and that of my children.

My eldest was born nearly 22 years ago and maternity services there ensured she was well after a 72-hour labour and subsequent five-day stay in NICU. My son was also born at the Royal Free and their services kept a watchful eye on me after months of heightened blood pressure.

The latest excuse for scrapping services is that birth rates are low, thanks to the Government’s own cost-of-living crisis, and there is less demand for maternity services.

Ham & High: Anne Clarke is appalled that the Government is planning to close the maternity unit at the Royal Free HospitalAnne Clarke is appalled that the Government is planning to close the maternity unit at the Royal Free Hospital (Image: www.jamesojenkins.co.uk)

But this sort of decision making is incredibly short-term and thoughtless. Birth rates can rise again if couples feel in a better financial position to have children, and those who wish to can delay for only so long. It is easy to cut services, but will be very difficult indeed to reopen services if demand requires.

Royal Free services should not be under threat. We need to keep all maternity services open. The NHS is under so much strain thanks to 13 years of failed austerity, but we can't place the burden of increased costs and pressures on women by making them travel further for maternity care.

Given that the Government is also threatening to downgrade maternity services at Edgware hospital, those on the Edgware branch of the Northern Line will face great difficulty in accessing maternity services.

If there is reduced demand for maternity services in these locations, the Government should look at what additional services can be offered alongside maternity services, not replacing them altogether.

We must send the Government a clear message that we will not tolerate threats to our NHS.

  • Anne Clarke is London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden.