Macclesfield Hospital was forced to suspend maternity and children’s services 21 times in one year because they didn’t have enough doctors and nurses.

East Cheshire NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, says that between June 2015 and June 2016 health chiefs closed or suspended the children’s ward 19 times and the maternity unit twice.

The longest period services were suspended for were 30 hours for maternity and 13.5 hours for the children’s ward.

Health bosses claim services ‘naturally’ experience varying levels of demand and were shut for safety reasons.

However, the figures help claims by junior doctors in their unrelenting row with the government over new contracts that hospitals are understaffed and struggling to cope with rising numbers of patients.

Junior doctors are planning a five-day strike next week (see page ???).

Macclesfield Hospital’s figures, revealed through the Freedom of Information Act, show that it is not the only hospital forced to take such measures.

Others across the UK reported suspending outpatient clinics, surgical wards, sleep services, ear, nose and throat admissions, stroke services, breast screening and A&E, during the same 12 month period.

A spokesman for East Cheshire NHS Trust said maternity and paediatrics units naturally experience varying levels of demand.

He said: “On occasions when the level of activity and complexity of case mix exceeds what can be safely provided from within existing staff and bed capacity, the trust has procedures in place to support alternative arrangements.

“These arrangements may only need to be in place for a few hours and during this period paediatric patients continue to receive clinical assessment and treatment in the emergency department.

“Regional network arrangements are in place to support inter hospital transfer of children and expectant women as required in line with trust policy.

“Reciprocal arrangements are in place. The trust’s priority is to maintain safe standards of care at all times.”

Macclesfield MP David Rutley said he had been assured by the trust that suspensions were for safety reasons and for short periods but pledged to “continue to keep close to this issue in regular meetings at the hospital in the months ahead”.

Sexual health medics also had to turn away patients at Macclesfield Hospital after a surge in demand.

East Cheshire NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said despite adequate staffing at the East Cheshire Centre for Sexual Health, it has not been able to see all non-emergency walk-in patients, who were asked them to attend a later clinic, their GP or the out-of-hours GP service, which is based on the hospital site. Pre-booked appointments were not been affected.

An East Cheshire NHS Trust spokesperson said: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank our service users for their understanding. We would also urge service users to notify us if they are unable to attend an appointment – around 20 per cent of appointments within the service are not attended.”

For more advice to go