PLANS to downsize Lewisham Hospital’s maternity services are “utter madness” when a neighbouring unit is already full, says Lewisham’s Liberal Democrat leader.

The hospital’s obstetrician-led maternity unit will be downgraded to deal with just 10 per cent of the births currently seen, following Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s highly unpopular decision last week.

Yet new figures suggest a hospital which will take on some of Lewisham’s mums-to-be is already overstretched and turned people away on seven occasions last year.

Leader of the Lewisham Lib Dem Council Group Councillor Chris Maines says King’s College Hospital’s maternity unit - in neighbouring Camberwell - closed its doors after being full seven times between November 2011 and November last year.

The information was gleaned by Cllr Maines following Freedom of Information requests submitted to south London hospitals - including Lewisham, which he says was also closed three times in the same period.

He said: “To propose downsizing Lewisham’s maternity services at a time when they are already overstretched is utter madness.

“These figures show that our local hospital services are already struggling to keep pace with demand and with Lewisham’s high birth rate, I have real concerns about capacity.”

Cllr Maines went on to say the prospect of expectant mothers being forced to travel further afield was especially worrying.

He added: “I hope that these figures will give the Secretary of State pause for thought and that he will reconsider these plans."

Campaigners say they will continue to fight the plans - which 25,000 people marched against last month - and Lewisham Council is expected to launch a legal battle shortly.