There are troubling times ahead for Nonnatus House.

In the teaser for next week's episode, the new Chairman of the Board of Health pays a visit to the midwives' headquarters with some troubling news: a maternity home and the surgery are "closing with immediate effect".

As we know all too well, when public sector services are squeezed, vast numbers of people suffer and the professionals working within them are stretched to breaking point.

The midwives in the BBC drama are adept at managing a crisis, but this stands to be one of the more significant challenges they've faced.

And that's not the only development. Nurse Crane is also set to receive a troubling letter from the board.

She has been "summoned" and is fearful that she'll be forced to retire.

"What if they tell me I've got to give up working?" she says, her disquiet palpable.

Linda Bassett plays Nurse Crane in Call the Midwife
Linda Bassett as Nurse Crane in Call the Midwife. BBC

Nurse Crane has been an integral part of the Nonnatus House team following her arrival in season 4. Linda Bassett's character is a consummate professional, striking a seamless balance between pragmatism and empathy for both her patients and her friends.

If someone needs support, she's there, as we saw in tonight's episode (15th January) when she helped Nancy draw up a repayment plan after landing herself in debt. She also ensured that Lucille received the support she needed after noticing that her colleague wasn't her usual upbeat self.

Nonnatus House would be lesser off without her, and Nurse Crane would undoubtedly be lesser off without Nonnatus House. But while hanging up her uniform for good clearly wasn't in her New Year plans, it's possible the board believes it's time for her to bow out.

If that is the case, could she still feature, either on a permanent basis or in a guest role?

Perhaps the news is positive. There's every chance they want Nurse Crane to oversee a new initiative, offer some insight into how Nonnatus House is ticking along, or perhaps she is to receive official recognition for her stellar work.

More like this

One can certainly hope...

Call the Midwife has already said goodbye to a handful of faces of late.

Sister Hilda (Fenella Woolgar) and Sister Frances (Ella Bruccoleri) have departed, but an insider previously told The Mirror that the possibility of them both returning has not been ruled out.

Lucille is also recovering from her nervous breakdown in Jamaica, but there's been no word on whether she'll be back.

Leonie Elliott, who plays the midwife, shared the following statement on Twitter: "This season was incredibly difficult to film. Thank you for all your kind words. It's my hope for people watching that if they can see the good in her, maybe they can extend that to people in real life.

"I care about her deeply. Many share her story of miscarriage and depression, and many share her experience of abuse, racial or otherwise. Many of us face mental health challenges, I hope we can continue to love one another, support and listen to each other. Look after yourselves and each other."

Read more: Call the Midwife features powerful domestic abuse storyline

Call the Midwife airs on Sundays at 8pm on BBC One. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.

Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times View From My Sofa podcast.