Plans have been put in place to make it easier for Moray women to be transferred to give birth in Inverness rather than Aberdeen.
NHS Grampian and NHS Highland have improved transfer arrangements between Dr Gray’s Hospital and the closest obstetric unit at Raigmore Hospital.
This means women who develop a complication during labour at the existing midwifery-led unit at Elgin can be transferred to Inverness.
The arrangements are part of the Maternity Service Plan which involves consultant-led services returning to Dr Gray’s Hospital in 2026.
Creating a ‘sustainable’ service
The health boards have described the improved transfer arrangements as a “significant” step which builds on the close working relationship already in place.
It is hoped the arrangement, which will remain in place fore the next three years, will provide certainties for mothers and families.
A midwife will accompany any women being transferred to support their continuing labour care beforethey are transferred to clinicians based at Raigmore.
Simon Bokor-Ingram, NHS Grampian’s Moray portfolio lead, said: “This arrangement with NHS Highland is a milestone moment in the evolution of local maternity services.
“We still have much to do and skilled staff to recruit but communities across Moray should be in no doubt about our commitment to deliver a sustainable consultant-led birth service for them.
“With NHS Grampian and NHS Highland working in partnership we have laid the foundation for a resilient, sustainable maternity service with safety at its heart.”
40-mile transfer from Moray
Moray MSP Douglas Ross has given a “cautious welcome” to the newly announced plans but believes they are “a step in the right direction”.
He said: “Allowing more Moray mums to give birth in Inverness rather than Aberdeen is a step in the right direction.
“I know from my own experience how worrying that journey is for Moray mums across to Aberdeen so I am glad NHS Grampian have taken this step.
“However, the reality for expectant mothers in Moray is that they still face a concerning 40-mile journey for the next few years, rather than being able to give birth in their own community.
“On current timescales the supposed temporary downgrade of maternity services at Dr Gray’s will last eight years, which is absolutely shocking.”
The Moray MSP added that campaigners fighting for the restoration of consultant-led services at Dr Gray’s Hospital will want reassurances that the announcement is not being used as a “distraction”.
Mr Ross continued: “What this move cannot do is distract any attention away from restoring consultant-led services at Dr Gray’s as quickly as possible from NHS Grampian and SNP Ministers.
“Jenni Minto heard directly from campaigners about how horrendous this experience is for them and those concerns cannot be ignored.
“While I am sure some mums in Moray will welcome this alternative, many will still be worried about the prospect of travelling to Inverness, especially during the winter months.
“I will continue to press SNP ministers and NHS Grampian to restore consultant-led maternity services in Moray as a matter of urgency.”