An MP has said that the maternity unit at the Royal Free Hospital must not close for the sake of “vulnerable groups of women”.

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq made the intervention during health and social care oral questions in the House of Commons earlier today (March 5).

The maternity unit at the Royal Free, which is located in Siddiq’s constituency, could be shut under plans put forward by health bosses after a fall in the number of babies born in north London.

North Central London Integrated Care Board (ICB) is currently running a public consultation on proposals to cut the number of neonatal units it runs from five to four.

Currently, the unit at the Royal Free is the preferred option for closure, with nearby Whittington listed as the second preference.

But the Labour MP has claimed that the Hampstead unit must not close, as it provides “life-changing treatment” to specific groups of vulnerable women.

She said: “Last week, I met with doctors from the maternity unit who told me that the Royal Free is uniquely placed to help mothers with diabetes, to help pregnant women who have HIV and to help mothers who require interventional radiology.

“The Royal Free is the only local provider that offers this life-changing treatment 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.”

Responding to Siddiq, Parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care, Maria Caulfield MP, claimed the decisions were ultimately for the local ICB to make.

She said: “Absolutely, it’s crucial we keep expertise in our maternity services.

“But my understanding from the local proposals by the trust and the ICB is it outlines plans for £40 million worth of significant additional investment into maternity services.”

Caulfield also urged the Hampstead MP to take part in the ICB’s public consultation on the plans, which runs until March 17.

Siddiq is not the only MP who has raised concerns about the proposals put forward by NHS North Central London.

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West have opposed closing the neonatal unit at the Whittington Hospital, the ICB’s second option after the Royal Free.

Jo Sauvage, chief medical officer for North Central London ICB, said: “We want to improve the quality of care and outcomes for all people using maternity and neonatal services and give every child the best start in life."

She added: “We’d encourage everyone to take part in the consultation so we can understand from local people what they feel the impact of these proposed changes would be and take this into account in our decision-making.”

North Central London ICB includes the boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington.