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‘Join me and see for yourself’: Health secretary invited to experience the journey pregnant Caithness mums are still being forced to make

Jamie Stone has invited Maree Todd and health secretary Humza Yousaf to join him on the journey between Caithness General and Raigmore this winter.
Jamie Stone has invited Maree Todd and health secretary Humza Yousaf to join him on the journey between Caithness General and Raigmore this winter.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf is being invited to Caithness this winter to experience the journey many pregnant women must take.

Highland MP Jamie Stone has made the request, also inviting local MSP Maree Todd.

The maternity model at Caithness General was downgraded five years ago.

41% decrease in births across Caithness

Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) revealed alarming figures showing births in the county had dropped by 110 when comparing figures recorded in 2015 and 2020.

Mr Stone has made the request after stating the issues pregnant mothers are facing “simply cannot continue”.

The majority of pregnant women must make a lengthy 103-mile journey to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to give birth.

Twins born more than 50 miles apart

Some have had to undertake this journey in treacherous winter conditions along the A9.

Others made the trip for induction – only to be turned away and sent back home.

And in some extreme cases, babies have been born on the roadside or in the back of vehicles in motion.

One mother gave birth to twins 52-miles apart on the route, not even making Raigmore Hospital in time.

Campaigners, alongside Mr Stone, have said enough is enough.

Downgrading Caithness has brought ‘several extremely serious issues’

Mr Stone praised the work of health professionals. But he said the downgrade has resulted in “several extremely serious issues”.

He is concerned that the alarming drop in birth rate will have serious implications on the issue of depopulation.

Jamie Stone MP

He said: “After years of inaction, and birth rates continuing to decline, I believe it is important for the Scottish Government to fully understand the realities of this situation.

“As the people of Caithness have told the Scottish Government time and time again, it simply cannot continue.”

Mr Stone has also raised concerns over an independent review being carried out in Moray, despite Caithness experiencing issues before services were downgraded at Dr Gray’s.

Safety of mother and baby critical

The Scottish Government said Mr Yousaf is considering Mr Stone’s offer and will “respond in due course”.

A spokeswoman said all health boards should provide maternity services “as close to home as possible”.

But she added there must be a balance to ensure the safety of mother and baby.

The spokeswoman added that the Best Start North review will help shape maternity and neonatal services and will develop “the best possible sustainable model for the future”.

Campaigners from the Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) have said the time for talking is over

The new community midwifery unit (CMU) at Caithness General is due to open soon.

Campaigners have called for an adaptation of the ‘Orkney model’, whereby the unit is led by midwifes with input from consultants.

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