Long-term plans to restore maternity services in Moray to full capacity have been published by NHS Grampian – but warnings have been made it could take another 11 months until staff are recruited with no guarantee posts will be filled.
Health bosses were tasked by the Scottish Government to draw up proposals to restore Dr Gray’s Hospital to full capacity after women’s and children’s services were downgraded last year due to a shortage to junior doctors.
Yesterday the NHS published its intentions for what the Elgin unit’s future should look like – including the return of 24-hour short stays for children seven days a week and an expansion in the number of consultants in the maternity unit from four to six.
Management hope that a new tier of staff working across multiple departments at the hospital, which has already begun with the training and recruitment of advanced nursing, physician and pharmacy posts, will reduce the seasonal reliance on trainee doctors which have blighted it in the past.
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Last night, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman approved the blueprint and welcomed progress on the plans ahead of a public consultation and financial analysis.
She said: “While there are recruitment challenges to overcome, I am confident that NHS Grampian has a plan to address this proactively and that they are continuing to work towards the goal of reinstating an obstetric maternity service at Dr Gray’s.”
Population projections used by the NHS show that the number of people living in Moray is expected to jump by 5% by 2027 – leading the health board to describe Dr Gray’s as “essential” to the region for the “foreseeable future”.
Under the latest proposals children needing more than 24 hours of care would be transferred to Aberdeen.
Meanwhile, consultant-let maternity care would return to Elgin with emergency caesarean sections.
A fresh recruitment campaign was launched this week at Kinloss Barracks to target partners of military personnel in Moray who are clinically trained.
Sue Swift, manager of women and children’s services, stressed the plans would continue to “evolve” throughout the consultation before it is approved.
She added: “The approval from the Scottish Government is a significant and welcome step forward.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead hopes the publication will give locals confidence in the future of the hospital.
He said: “However there is no room for complacency and everyone involved in the delivery of the plan must keep the foot on the gas to ensure that they stick to the agreed timetable.”
Moray MP Douglas Ross added: “We have waited a long time for a return to sustainable services, although there is still a lot of training to do at least we now know that NHS Grampian is committed to ensuring that Moray has the hospital provision that local people need.”