MATERNITY wards were closed on two separate occasions at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

The wards were unable to take in expectant mothers on two days in 2016 because of a ‘lack of capacity’.

The first closure was for four hours and 10 minutes and the second for five hours, a hospital spokesman confirmed.

Earlier this week the Labour Party has suggested that 40 per cent of maternity wards closed their doors on at least one occasion in 2016.

A total of 42 out of 96 trusts, responding to a Freedom of Information request, said they had shut wards on a total of 382 occasions. Most blamed too few staff and not enough beds.

The government said the closures were not down to staff shortages. The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust closed its units 30 times in 2016 and blamed staff shortages.

Nicky Etchells, acting head of midwifery at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I fully appreciate how concerning it can be for expectant mothers if they are diverted to a different unit than they were anticipating.

“We can’t predict how many mums will go into labour at any one time but here at Bolton we are one of the better trusts in avoiding diversions, and only do so – and for as short a time as possible – if it is safe for women and babies.”