Dozens of maternity units have had to turn women in labour away resulting in them having to travel to another hospital to have their babies, it has been reported.
As many as 45 of 93 NHS maternity units closed their doors at least once in 2015, according to figures that were obtained by shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander using Freedom of Information (FOI) laws and published in the Daily Mail.
The newspaper said women were turned away on at least 575 occasions, compared with 461 times in 2014. It said patients at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading have been sent to the Great Western Hospital in Swindon - a journey that could take up to an hour.
Leeds NHS trust has turned women away 220 times this year, according to the newspaper.
Ms Alexander told the Mail: “It’s nothing short of a scandal that at such an important time, expectant mothers are told there’s no room at the hospital.
“Behind these statistics are awful stories of mums being turned away due to a shortage of staff and beds.”
The FOI request obtained responses from 93 of the 138 maternity units in the country.
A Department of Health spokesman told the Mail: “We expect all mums and mums-to-be to receive high quality, safe care when they need it.
“That’s why there are already 1,600 additional midwives since 2010, as well as 6,000 currently in training and we are investing £10billion to fund the NHS’s own plans for the future.
“But we know that there is more to do - the NHS is undertaking a major review of maternity services to modernise care for women and their babies across England.”
Suzanne Hinchliffe, Chief Nurse at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Leeds Teaching Hospitals runs an integrated service between our two maternity units which are located close together at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s University Hospital and between them see almost 10,000 births a year.
“Inevitably at times demand can be unpredictable and if one location gets too busy or there is pressure on staffing we have the ability to divert mums-to-be to our neighbouring facility to ensure safe and effective care with the minimum of disruption. This means the service in Leeds can remain open even if one hospital has capacity issues.”