NHS Grampian has backed a vision to restore services at Moray’s largest hospital while warning it will only be possible with “significant additional investment”.
Maternity and children’s services were downgraded at Dr Gray’s Hospital in July last year after a staffing crisis made it too difficult to continue them.
A long-term plan detailing how to restore the Elgin unit to full strength was published by the NHS in May, which included the idea of hiring extra consultants to bolster both wards.
However, warnings have been raised by staff at the hospital that more resources are needed to provide round-the-clock care – with no guarantee recruitment efforts will be successful.
Yesterday NHS Grampian’s board backed the blueprint, which has already been supported by the Scottish Government, but called for patience before services are brought back to full strength, which is expected to happen in spring next year.
Pam Gowans, the health authority’s executive lead for Dr Gray’s, said: “Recruitment is going to be the key to all of this and we will pull out all the stops in our efforts to attract additional people to Gray’s.
“It’s also not just about the very specific workforce requirements the plan commits us to; we also need to make sure the wider hospital has the right staff in place to support a 24-hour women and children’s service again.
“Most people don’t realise how closely the services at Dr Gray’s are interlinked and there is no doubt the new 24/7 women and children’s service will place extra demands elsewhere in the hospital.”
Details about a consultation to be run about the changes to the children’s service are expected to be announced on Friday.
Proposals backed yesterday would involve the ward only being used for short stays of up to 24 hours with longer spells being admitted to Aberdeen.
No consultation is required for the maternity service due to the proposed model being similar to the one used before the downgrade.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “For the plan to work, everything is going to hinge on attracting staff to choose to work at Dr Gray’s and we need NHS Grampian to provide a laser-like focus on recruitment.
“I will be doing all I can to ensure this is the case.”