Dozens of women have been recalled for a repeat ultrasound because of concerns over the quality of scans at a Highland hospital.
Many of them now face a 100-mile trek to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for the second check. Others agreed to wait for the resumption of a local service on January 9.
The concern centres on 29 scans carried out at Caithness General in Wick by a locum. NHS Highland has apologised.
Lead midwife Mary Burnside said: “Local staff were concerned about the quality of scans and immediately sought a second opinion. Alison Davies, lead clinician for foetal medicine, confirmed the quality of the scan was below the national screening standard.
“The Caithness midwifery team leader contacted any women who it was felt should be rescanned to discuss with them why we’re recommending the scan should be repeated. This is not what we want for our expectant mums, particularly at this time of year.”
The issue was not related to the evolving “community maternity unit,” but “does again flag up the fragility of services run by single practitioners and the use of locums,” she said.
It is the latest problem involving the maternity service in Caithness and prompted a call last night for a fresh independent inquiry.
North Conservative MSP Ed Mountain said: “I’m extremely angry. It follows a long line of problems with the local maternity service. It’s time for an independent review because Caithness mums are not getting the service they deserve.”
The health board said two independent reviews into the county’s maternity service had already been carried out.
Nicola Sinclair of local pressure group the Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) said: “It’s a massive inconvenience to send pregnant women to Raigmore at this time of year. We’re in the middle of a massive storm.”
The board is currently converting services to a “community midwife unit” rather than having it led by consultant obstetricians. The decision followed a review after the “potentially avoidable” death of a newborn baby from an infection 40 hours after she was born in September 2015. Five newborn babies have died at Caithness General since 2010.