Fewer pregnant women will have to travel outwith Moray to give birth following the appointment of two new consultants at Dr Gray’s Hospital.
The chief executive of NHS Scotland, Paul Gray, revealed the new locum paediatric appointments when he travelled to the crisis-hit Elgin facility yesterday.
It is thought that the staffing boost could soon bring benefits for the local mums-to-be with medium and high risk pregnancies – who have been transferred to hospitals in Inverness and Aberdeen to give birth since the maternity unit was downgraded in July.
Mr Gray explained that the easing of the hospital’s staffing dilemma could lead to the reintroduction of elective caesareans, which would allow more women to have their babies in Elgin.
The health chief said that the new appointments had come at a time when the hospital was making strides with an “action plan” aimed at restoring maternity services.
Mr Gray said: “The plan is now more developed than it was and I’m pleased with the progress so far.
“There have plans to reintroduce elective caesareans, and we have recruited two locum paediatric consultants who are now in their posts.
“Management is woking on maximising the pre-natal care that can be performed in Dr Gray’s to reduce the requirement of transfers to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, and are working closely with Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to maximise use of that facility as well.”
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NHS Grampian submitted draft proposals on how to reintroduce a consultant-led maternity ward to Scottish Government Health Secretary Jeane Freeman earlier this month, who rejected it and deemd that more improvements were needed.
Currently, the children’s ward is only open from 9am until 5pm from Monday to Thursday and only low-risk women can give birth in Elgin.
Moray MSP, Richard Lochhead, also met Mr Gray and was pleased to hear about the progress made by the health board.
The SNP politician said: “Clearly, these measures represent a step forward.
“I’m told this is the first phase of the long-awaited plan that is still being finalised, but that now has a lot more action points than the original draft.
“Scottish Government officials are now working closely with NHS Grampian to make the plan robust.
“There is still some way to go and I am in regular contact with the Health Secretary, who is personally overseeing the development of the plan, and hopefully we’ll hear more about that in the coming days.”
Dr Gray’s Hospital: Maternity History
Dr Gray’s Hospital has suffered several setbacks over the last few months.
In July, the maternity service was downgraded from consultant-led to midwifery-led, meaning that women with medium or high-risk pregnancies were forced to travel elsewhere to give birth.
The controversial move was blamed on staff shortages, with particular regard to a lack of junior doctors and paediatricians, and mums across the region have called for immediate action to resolve the crisis.
Earlier this week, a pregnant woman was forced to book a taxi to take her through to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary after entering labour.
The children’s ward at Dr Gray’s is now closed at weekends due to the recruitment crisis, and the on-call service for paediatrics was withdrawn by NHS Grampian in response to the realisation rotas had become unworkable.
Just two dedicated consultants have been manning the service since two colleagues resigned a year ago – putting a burden assessed as “high risk” on those that remained.
NHS Grampian was told to come up with a plan on how to reinstate the consultant-led midwife service by Scottish Government Health Secretary Jeane Freeman in August.
However, the body’s original draft plan submitted to Ms Freeman was rejected two weeks later and the health board was told to make major improvements.
Now with the first phase underway to restore the women and children’s services at Dr Gray’s, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for worried Moray families.