A woman giving birth in a car outside St Helier’s maternity department has sparked criticism of the proposals to axe the hospital’s vital service.

Gemma Slatter, 30, who lives a mile away from St Helier Hospital, gave birth to her baby Isla in a Toyota Corolla metres from the maternity ward on Monday, October 1.

Critics have said the fact miss Slatter could not even reach a hospital a mile from her home because of the speed of her labour illustrated if the service is axed, how many more mothers could give birth at the side of the road on their way to other hospitals in South London.

As part of a healthcare review, Better Services, Better Value, it was recommended that St Helier Hospital should lose its maternity department.

This would mean more than 3,000 expectant mothers would instead be sent to other hospitals in the region.

The chairman of Sutton Council's health and well being scrutiny committee, Mary Burstow, said:  "Not all babies conveniently give six hours notice that they are about to arrive. 

"Thank goodness the midwives were on hand to help mum after giving birth and were skilled enough to cope with the situation. 

"If she had had to go to St Georges, she would have given birth half way along Tooting Broadway.

The MP for Sutton and Cheam, Paul Burstow said: "The brains at BSBV think closing St Helier's maternity will add just minutes to the car journey. Clearly none of them have tried driving in this part of London or parking at St George's.

"The BSBV project is divorced from reality. Every twist and turn of this costly project serves to expose the flawed thinking and underline why NHS London should axe BSBV now."

The maternity unit, which comprises state of the art delivery rooms with birthing pools and a neonatal unit, opened just three years ago at a cost of £2.8m.

A spokesperson for Better Services, Better Value said: “As part of our proposals the remaining three maternity units would be expanded to accommodate more women and more deliveries.

"Currently, when a woman goes into labour she contacts the maternity unit and speaks to a midwife who, depending how far advanced the women’s labour is, gives advice about when to travel to Hospital.

"This will continue to be the process in the future.  In addition, accommodation would be available at the three expanded maternity units for those women in early labour, so they don’t have to travel home and then back to the unit again once their labour has progressed - something that is currently not available now.”