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EXCLUSIVE: Douglas Ross reveals ’emotional’ journey tailing pregnant wife in 65-mile ambulance dash

Douglas Ross was told by medics that his wife may have to give birth in a lay-by, after the decision was made to transfer her from Elgin to Aberdeen due to  their baby’s heart rate “dipping”.

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives said he felt “emotional” as he made the 65-mile trip to Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, following Krystle in an ambulance.

He described the drive as one of the “worst I’ve ever had”  as he was unable to comfort his wife who was in labour with son James.

Krystle was called into Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin last week after experiencing contractions for two days.

Medics told the pair their child’s heart rate was “dipping a little bit” and there was perhaps “some pressure being put on the baby”.

‘Blue light’ journey to Aberdeen

As a result, the decision was taken to transfer Krystle to Aberdeen Maternity Hospital as Dr Gray’s only has capacity to undertake midwife-led births.

As part of his role representing the area as an MP and MSP, Mr Ross will today meet with the team conducting the Independent Review into Moray maternity services in Elgin.

Krystle Ross with the couple’s new arrival James, who was born last Wednesday.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Ross said: “They (Dr Gray’s Hospital) called an ambulance and it took a little bit of time because they’d already had a transfer earlier.

“We left Elgin about 8pm and got through to Aberdeen about 9.30pm.

“Krystle was in the ambulance with a midwife, a trainee midwife, a paramedic and then two ambulance drivers.

‘All these things go through your mind’

“I had to follow through in the car. Once she got strapped into the ambulance, I left because they were blue lighting it to Aberdeen.

I found it quite emotional to think in that ambulance with the blue lights and sirens going was my wife in labour and our child and not able to be with them or comfort her.

“By the time I got between Fochabers and Keith, the ambulance overtook me and I had to follow thereafter.

“The midwife was quite open with me to say the worst case scenario is the labour does speed up quite significantly and they’d have to pull over.

“So I’d have to be on the road somewhere so I could follow them into a lay-by if that was necessary. Thankfully it wasn’t.

“But all these things go through your mind. First of all I was driving from Elgin and kept looking in my rear view mirror to see her coming and it felt like it was never coming but obviously it took a while to leave the hospital.

James Ross, who was born last week at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

“Then once it overtook, I found it quite emotional to think in that ambulance with the blue lights and sirens going was my wife in labour and our child and not able to be with them or comfort her.

“That drive was one of the worst drives I’ve ever had because everything was going through my mind and it’s only in retrospect I thought ‘was I in a good condition to drive through myself?’

“It was a lovely summer’s evening. I can’t imagine what that’s like in the height of winter when there’s snow drifts and there could be accidents on that road – it could be closed – and all the stories that constituents have told me about that journey just came flooding back.”

Baby James

On arrival at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Mr Ross found the front door shut, so had to phone the NHS Grampian helpline listening to 15 minutes of options on the phone line.

He was told to go to Aberdeen Maternity Hospital – which he did not realise was in another part of the Foresterhill complex – where he was reunited with his wife.

The couple’s son James was eventually born at 1.45am on June 30.

The couple had been “very hopeful” their second child would be born at Dr Gray’s Hospital, where Krystle gave birth to their first son Alistair in 2019.

However, most families in Moray have been forced to travel to Aberdeen or Inverness to give birth since a staffing crisis triggered a temporary downgrade in June 2018, from consultant-led to midwife-led.

It means any complications can lead to women being sent to hospitals including Aberdeen, nearly 70 miles away.

Mr Ross previously revealed his wife was “anxious” about being diverted from the local maternity unit.

Douglas Ross, wife Krystle, son Alistair and one-week old son James. – Picture by Jason Hedges/ DCT Media

‘Consultant-led unit must be re-introduced’

In our exclusive interview, Mr Ross, who has campaigned on the issue for the last three years, said the downgraded service in Elgin “cannot continue any longer”.

He added: “The fact is we were told this downgrade would be temporary for a year and now three years on we’re still in the same situation.

“My experience has just reinforced my belief that we have to do everything possible to get the consultant-led unit reintroduced at Dr Gray’s because more and more families are going to have go through what we went through last week.”

An NHS Grampian spokesman said: “The Scottish Government review team is meeting with a full and wide range of people with different voices as part of their review.

“The review is ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further before it has concluded.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We remain committed to the reintroduction of an obstetric maternity service at Dr Gray’s in a safe and sustainable way.

“The Independent Review being led by Ralph Roberts will consider all the issues and hear directly from staff at Dr Gray’s and the local community.

“It will report its findings and recommendations to ministers later in the summer.”

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