Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has been accused of failing to help NHS Grampian shape its plans to reinstate Moray’s maternity services.
The health board recently downgraded the ward at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin from consultant-led to midwife-led, meaning high and medium-risk mums now must travel to Aberdeen or Inverness.
The change has been blamed on staff shortages.
NHS Grampian submitted proposals on how to reinstate the service to the Scottish Government, but were told on Tuesday to go back and make “important improvements” by Ms Freeman.
She indicated she did not believe the plans went far enough to guarantee the safety of mums and their babies.
Now local MP Douglas Ross has claimed Ms Freeman is partly to blame for the health board’s failings.
He said: “It is alarming that Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has sent NHS Grampian back to the drawing board after its plan failed to meet her expectations.
“I’m afraid that her handling of the crisis must now be questioned. She insisted on producing a plan in 10 working days, involved her own officials to help, and then discovered that it is not fit for purpose when it was placed on her desk.
“This is hardly surprising as all the evidence suggests that key staff involved in delivering the service were not consulted and neither was the wider community who didn’t get to see the final plan.”
Both Mr Ross and Moray MSP Richard Lochhead last night urged the health board to listen to the public and local staff as they write up the next draft.
Mr Ross said: “Perhaps if the views of local staff and those of the public had been taken on board, the health secretary would not have had to ask the health board to go back to the drawing board.
“NHS Grampian needs to talk to its own staff and the wider community and come up with proposals that we can all have confidence in, and not just the health secretary.”
And Mr Lochhead said decisions should be made by management in Elgin rather than colleagues in Aberdeen.
“The need for the health secretary’s intervention, which is most welcome following her visit to Moray, also illustrates that we need management and staff at Dr Gray’s genuinely empowered to take more decisions over the hospital’s future rather than leaving so much power with management in Aberdeen.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian spokeswoman said that the local Dr Gray’s management team had a say in decision-making at the hospital, and pointed to the recent appointment of Pam Gowans, from the Moray Health and Social Care Partnership, as the executive led for the hospital.
“There is a local hospital management team who report directly to Pam and have responsibility for the day to day running of the hospital,” she said.
Ms Freeman said: “I have now reviewed NHS Grampian’s plan for returning a full consultant-led maternity service at Dr Gray’s Hospital and have advised the health board that further important improvements are needed to the plan.
“Scottish Government officials are working closely with NHS Grampian to ensure that these improvements are urgently made. Given the importance of this issue to local people we expect the health board to resubmit their plan to the Scottish Government early next week.
“Throughout this process the safety of mothers and babies is of utmost importance and NHS Grampian has stressed that the well-being and care of patients is paramount.”