Controversial changes to services which will affect pregnant women on Teesside and Tyneside have moved a step forward.
High-risk pregnancies will be treated at Hartlepool's University Hospital
North Tyneside Hospital has announced it is considering making its maternity unit midwife-led.
Women with high risk pregnancies would be transferred to Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary or Wansbeck General Hospital, in Ashington.
The unit at Stockton's North Tees Hospital would also be midwife-led if the proposals get the go-ahead.
The plans also include moving consultant-led maternity and paediatric services, including the special care baby unit, from North Tees.
Health chiefs said changes are needed because of changing birth rates, a national shortage of doctors training in obstetrics, and limits on doctors' hours.
Dr Mike Lavender, of the Maternity Steering Group, said: "I think the changes would be good news and the main aim is to make sure we have an effective and safe service.
"We want to not only maintain but improve standards and we believe this will be achieved by midwife-led care."
But North Tyneside councillor, Muriel Green, said changes would mean extra travelling time for women with complications having to travel to Newcastle or Wansbeck Hospital in Northumberland.
She said: "The changes would also limit women's choices, which is important."
Teesside health chiefs are also recommending a centre of excellence in women's and children's services at Hartlepool's University Hospital.
But there have been concerns that the proposed changes would mean patients living in nearby Stockton would face long journeys.
Health chiefs on Teesside and Tyneside are expected to make a final decision on the shake-up in the next few months.