Health campaigners in Moray have welcomed the publication of a blueprint to restore maternity services in the region to full strength – but still believe recruitment needs to be more “proactive”.
NHS Grampian’s plan to strengthen staffing numbers at Dr Gray’s Hospital was backed by the Scottish Government last week.
Women’s and children’s services at the Elgin unit have been downgraded due to the shortage of junior doctors since July last year.
Now the NHS has developed proposals that, if approved following a public consultation, would lead to less dependency on the seasonal intake of staff.
The proposed model would lead to short stays for children returning round-the-clock and the number of maternity consultants being boosted from four to six.
However, fears persist among members of the Keep Mum campaign group that the plans are dependent on a financial analysis and that it is expected to take another 11 months before the blueprint is implemented.
A spokeswoman said: “Recruitment for the staff to allow the unit to be upgraded is apparently not starting until September.
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“Obviously this is very concerning and we have to conclude that Moray women will face yet another winter of travelling and being transferred in labour on the dangerous A96.”
Management at the hospital hope a new tier of trained staff will allow some jobs to be taken away from junior doctors to reduce the reliance on them day-to-day.
The Keep Mum spokeswoman added: “There are general comments in the plan about advanced nurse practitioners, physician associates and prescribing pharmacists we were told about as far back as August 2018.
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“We need more detail to give the people of Moray more confidence in NHS Grampian.”
Last week NHS Grampian announced a fresh recruitment drive targeting clinically-trained partners of military personnel stationed at bases in the north.
It is hoped that the influx of personnel to RAF Lossiemouth due to take place over the next two years will bolster potential applicants in the region.
Scottish Government Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I am keen to ensure that the public and all relevant stakeholders, including the Keep Mum campaign group, remain fully engaged with this process.
“I know the board share that determination.
“The consultation period, which will begin shortly, will allow that engagement to take place and I would encourage everyone with a view to take part.”