Health chiefs have been urged to provide guarantees that the north-east’s neo-natal unit will not be downgraded as part of a nationwide review.
Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman has confirmed the number of intensive care units will reduce from eight at present to three covering the whole of Scotland.
The remaining five would not close, but instead be “re-profiled” as local neo-natal units. The current timescale for the changes is “within five years”.
The decision has been taken because of recent recommendations from experts which advocate that very low birthweight babies are cared for in units with full support staff which care for more than 100 newborns with these problems every year.
However, the minister’s announcement has sparked fears that mums and babies in emergencies could have to travel to access the three specialist units, with critics claiming the review will not be based on geography or travel time.
North East MSP Tom Mason has argued the “level three” status of the unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, which serves the north-east of Scotland as well as Orkney and Shetland, must not be scaled back.
The Conservative member said: “So far, all we know is that the number across Scotland will reduce from eight to three.
“Expectant mothers across the north-east and up in Orkney and Shetland should not be facing the prospect of having to travel any further for treatment.
“I have serious concerns for people living in rural and remote areas, who could find themselves very far from these specialist units. Even within Aberdeenshire and Moray at present, the journey to ARI can be an hour or more.
“The health secretary must outline as soon as possible what the future plans are for the Aberdeen unit.”
Mr Mason has raised the issue in parliament and has also written to the health secretary seeking assurances.
Ms Freeman has responded and stressed “no decisions” have been made at this stage.
She wrote: “A range of factors including support services, geography and accessibility are carefully being taken into account.”
The Scottish Government has said options were currently being considered going forward.
A Scottish Government spokesman added: “No neonatal units will close as a result of these changes which are part of a wider package of improvements to neonatal care focused on keeping mother and baby together and supporting families with babies in neonatal care.
“An options appraisal to identify the locations of the final neonatal intensive care units is currently being undertaken and no decisions have yet been made.”