Health bosses have been urged by Moray Council to “maximise” children’s services in the region to ensure fair access to treatment for communities.
NHS Grampian has run a consultation about proposed changes to its paediatric model at Dr Gray’s Hospital to cope with continuing staffing shortages.
The health board’s preferred system would mean stays for youngsters at the Elgin unit being restricted to 24 hours with longer spells resulting in transfers to Aberdeen.
Yesterday a proposed consultation response – running to three pages – was tabled by the opposition Conservative group.
Instead, councillors voted to submit a shorter and “less specific” letter, which was drafted by the SNP administration with other senior councillors, to the NHS amid concerns the longer version could be interpreted as the authority interfering in the operations of the health board.
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The response describes the council as “concerned” about the on-going problems at the hospital while thanking the health service for its work so far to make the unit more sustainable.
It adds: “The delivery of a wider, well-resourced and resilient children’s service at Dr Gray’s has the potential to significantly reduce journeys to and from Aberdeen, which would support carbon reduction targets.
“Another very strong reason for maximising children’s services is improving equality of access to services, particularly for those in rural areas, by removing the need for long and expensive journeys to Aberdeen.”
Council leader Graham Leadbitter said: “There was a feeling that the level of detail in the initial letter was not something councillors wouldn’t generally have knowledge of.
“I certainly don’t have that level of knowledge, the general view was a broader letter would be more appropriate.”
Conservative group leader Tim Eagle said: “I think consultations by their very nature need to be detailed. I think this was an opportunity to send a very detailed response. If I picked up the other one on a board I don’t think I would get anything from it.”
Councillors backed the letter proposed by Mr Leadbitter by 10 votes to seven with two abstentions.