ROYAL Bolton Hospital’s maternity unit closed its doors for four hours to expectant mums after experiencing a “very busy” few days.

Hospital bosses say they experienced an exceptionally busy period, meaning the wing was closed for a number of hours this week to new admissions ­— with some mums having to wait longer than expected for procedures.

Pregnant women, some of whom have been admitted for medical interventions, say they are facing the added stress and worry of being kept in the dark about when their procedure will take place.

Hospital bosses have apologised for any distress caused, saying the service ­— a regional centre of excellence ­— has been “very busy” in the past few days.

The workload included a case which involved a large number of staff over a long period of time which contributed to delays for other patients.

Women on the ward are said to be waiting hours and sometimes days for procedures such as inductions.

Samantha Jones, who has a relative on the ward, said: “She went in on Saturday to be induced for medical reasons and nothing happened until Tuesday and now I think there is another wait. She is told the baby needs to be induced because of medical reasons and is just left.”

One patient wrote to The Bolton News saying it took nearly eight hours to be seen by a doctor and was finally examined in the early hours. She also said she was concerned about the lack of information about her care and was "made to feel bad" for asking.

Maternity services bosses say that the number of mums, along with extremely urgent cases, meant some procedures were taking place later than originally planned.

They say the nature of maternity services means that there are times when “activity” increases with cases needing to be “prioritised based on the risk to mothers and babies”.

Marie Forshaw, deputy director of nursing and midwifery, said: “As the timing of childbirth can be unpredictable we do have fluctuations in how busy our maternity unit is. October has been very busy including the last few days. This included one case which involved a large number of staff over a long period of time which contributed to a delay in proceeding with some less urgent cases such as inductions and planned caesarean sections. As is standard practice, if we are at all concerned about the potential level of staffing, we put into place well tried measures to maintain safety.

“These include redeploying some of our midwives from less busy areas or who are off duty.

“At the very busiest times we can escalate to the Greater Manchester plan which means women are sent to a different Trust for a period of time. This happened for four hours in the past few days

“Our staff fully understand that having a baby is one of life’s most important events and I apologise for any distress or concerns that parents may have experienced. We would like to give reassurance that keeping everyone safe is our top priority.”

NHS England says it experiences a baby boom nine months after Christmas as conception rates “soar” over the festive period. Figures show that nationally nearly 17,000 women became pregnant in the last week of December in 2015 – the last year for which data is available – compared with an average of around 15,500 in a typical week.

Over the last two decades September 26, which is 39 weeks and two days after Christmas Day, was the most popular day to be born, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Royal Bolton Hospital’s maternity unit is one of three regional centres of excellence and had a cash injection of £20 million to improve care.

Six thousand babies are born at the hospital every year, a quarter of all the babies born in Greater Manchester.