The BBC has issued a statement responding to the thousands of complaints received over the recent baby swap plot in EastEnders.

On New Year’s Day, viewers watched as Ronnie Branning’s baby James died of cot death.

Ronnie was then seen swapping the dead tot with Kat Moon’s baby, Tommy.

The statement, posted on the BBC’s official website, says: “We appreciate this is a particularly emotive storyline and as with all such sensitive subject matters, we approached it with great care and attention, seeking guidance and advice from a number of experts in this field in order to ensure as realistic a portrayal as possible.

It added: “It’s important to note there is absolutely no inference that Ronnie’s actions are in any way typical of a bereaved mother of a newborn baby.

“In her grief and desperation at the discovery that her much longed for baby has passed away, and finding herself in the exceptional circumstance of being alone with her neighbour’s newborn son, Ronnie acted on impulse in the heat of the moment, without really knowing what she was doing, or considering the consequences or repercussions.’

EastEnders was hit with over 3,000 complaints in a backlash over the controversial nature of the New Year’s cot death storyline.

But despite programme chiefs re-editing traumatic scenes after a preview screening of the episode, the show was still hit with a furious reaction from viewers.

The statement goes on to say: ‘We can assure viewers that it’s not our intention to cause distress or upset, and we have ensured that key episodes are supported by the BBC Action Line in order for those affected by the storyline to be able to obtain information regarding sources of further help and advice.

“Over the coming weeks, we will see Ronnie and Kat each coming to terms with the loss of their babies, and explore how they re-build their lives in the wake of such tragedy. Viewers will see the situation resolve itself over the coming months.”

The statement comes as it was confirmed that actress Samantha Womack, who plays Ronnie, is quitting the soap – but bosses have downplayed reports that her departure was prompted by the harrowing storyline.

However, she is believed to have handed bosses a handwritten letter of resignation when she was first told of the plans for the plot back in November.

Samantha is thought to have told bosses she is ‘a mother first and an actress second’.