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‘I won’t pre-empt those discussions’: Humza Yousaf silent on decade wait for Moray maternity services

The health secretary said he would not "pre-empt" discussions on timescales.
The health secretary said he would not "pre-empt" discussions on timescales.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has failed to answer claims it could take up to 10 years to fully restore maternity services in Moray.

Dr Gray’s consultant-led unit was temporarily downgraded in summer 2018 due to a staff shortage.

Families have since faced trips to Aberdeen and Inverness to give birth.

Four years on, the unit is still not reinstated.

NHS Grampian warns it could take up to 10 years to be in a position where most women can give birth in Elgin.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross challenged the SNP minister on the timescales at Holyrood on Thursday.

Mr Yousaf refused to deny the wait could be this long or acknowledge that a wait of this length would be “unacceptable” for Moray mums and families.

He told MSPs that the unit will have a timetable for moving to “model four” by the summer.

This includes enhanced specialist ante-natal and post-natal care in Dr Gray’s to “vastly reduce” the need for women from Moray to travel to access these services.

The health secretary said a timetable will be published “later in the year” towards a full consultant-led maternity unit.

However, NHS Grampian chief executive Caroline Hiscow told health board members last month that it could take seven to 10 years for full services to be restored. 

‘I won’t pre-empt those discussions’

Speaking in parliament, Mr Yousaf said: “As Douglas Ross well knows, as I’ve met with him, I’ve met with campaigners locally, I’ve met with clinicians at Dr Gray’s as well as Raigmore too, that this government has stated, I have stated, that model six is our end destination.

“I’ve committed to a timetable of this summer for model four in the interim and a timetable later in the year towards model six.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Humza Yousaf.

“So I won’t pre-empt those discussions that are ongoing but both health boards – NHS Grampian and NHS Highland – are crucial to model four and then on to model six.

“They both know very clearly that I expect urgency and pace but also that we must do this in a way for the women involved and their unborn children in a safe and sustainable way.”

Mums being put in ‘dangerous situations’

Keep Mum, a campaign group fighting to restore maternity services at Dr Gray’s, have welcomed a return to a consultant-led unit for mums in the region.

But they continue to have “pressing questions”, including around timescales for the return of services.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Ross, who is a Moray MP and Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “I gave Humza Yousaf the opportunity to state that a 10-year wait was unacceptable, and he refused to do so.

“Local campaigners have been working non-stop to get this vital service back in Moray, but it seems for NHS Grampian and the Scottish Government that this could be a very long way off.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.

“There are far too many examples of mums-to-be and families being put in dangerous situations because of the downgrade to the maternity services in Moray, therefore it must be a priority for government and NHS Grampian to get things back up and running as quickly as possible.

“Just one day more waiting for a return to consultant-led maternity services in Moray puts lives at risk.

“I hate to think what could happen if we are expected to wait another ten years for the level of service that is so clearly required here in Moray.”

TIMELINE: Key dates in the campaign to restore maternity services at Dr Gray’s in Elgin

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