Campaigners fighting for the full restoration of maternity services to Moray have welcomed the Scottish Government announcement with “cautious optimism” – but still have questions.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has confirmed the ambition is for consultant-led services to be brought back to Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin.
The unit was downgraded in summer 2018 due to a staff shortage with families facing trips to Aberdeen and Inverness for births instead.
‘Difficult route back for Dr Gray’s’
Campaigners Keep Mum have welcomed the commitment to restore all services to Dr Gray’s while recognising it will be a “difficult route back”.
However, concerns have been raised about when Moray families can expect to see a reintroduction of services.
In the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Mr Yousaf explained he was unable to say when.
He said: “The reason why I can’t give you the date right now is because frankly if we did that now we’d be plucking it out of the air.”
Keep Mum met with the minister after the statement in parliament and said they still had “pressing questions” after the talks.
Among them included timescales for the restoration of services, what support is required at Dr Gray’s and what the interim service will look like.
Group spokeswoman Kirsty Watson said: “It will be a difficult route back but we are glad that it is beginning.
“The return of a consultant-led service will benefit thousands of families who currently have to endure a service which is risky, causes huge amounts of uncertainty and mental agony.
“Cautious optimism probably sums up our response, but we know that there is a long way to go. This campaign will continue – we appreciate all the support from across the community.”
£10million investment to begin process
To kick-start the process of restoring services, Mr Yousaf confirmed £10million of investment – adding he understood the “urgency and importance” of the issue.
Half of the money will be used to develop services in Elgin while the other half will be used to improve facilities in Inverness following calls from campaigners in the north.
Consultant obstetricians and senior midwives say Raigmore does not have the facilities or the staff to deal with extra births from Moray and requires new investment.
The minister stressed the fix “won’t happen overnight” – but stressed the ambition was for 80 to 90% of expectant Moray mums to give birth at Dr Gray’s.
He said: ““I am in no doubt about the scale of the challenges in delivering this, but I know we can deliver these changes over time and bring much needed stability to health services across the north east of Scotland.”
John Tomlinson, interim chairman of NHS Grampian said: “We thank Mr Yousaf for the clarity provided today, which sets the future direction for maternity services in Moray, Grampian and the north of Scotland more broadly, and the announcement of additional investment in Dr Gray’s Hospital.
“We will work in partnership with the Scottish Government, NHS Highland, our staff, and the communities that we serve to make progress with these recommendations on a phased basis.
“Our priority remains the delivery of safe and sustainable maternity services and we share the health secretary’s commitment to ensuring expectant mothers receive the best possible care.”