New plans for the future of maternity services in Moray have been branded a “betrayal” for expectant mums.
NHS Grampian and NHS Highland jointly published plans to see how maternity services at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin can be improved.
But it does not detail any proposals to introduce consultant-led births or elective caesareans at Dr Gray’s – a key demand by campaigners.
The maternity unit in Elgin was downgraded in 2018.
Most women in Moray have had to go to either Aberdeen Maternity Hospital or Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to give birth.
Giving birth on the A96
At least two women have been forced to give birth off the side of the A96 in the last six months alone, raising serious concern that a tragedy will happen.
The new proposals were criticised by Moray MP Douglas Ross, who was warned his wife may have to give birth in a lay-by while being transferred to Aberdeen to give birth.
Mr Ross, MP for Moray, says he still has “significant” concerns about the future of maternity services in the area.
“This confirmed the very worst fears of expectant mothers and myself,” said Mr Ross.
“A full return of consultant-led services at Dr Gray’s Hospital may take up to a decade to return, or may never happen at all.”
He warned the new options might become “the norm” for expectant mothers.
And he claimed health board chiefs have gone against recommendations to move quickly for C-sections at Dr Gray’s.
“That is yet another point where expectant mothers have continually been betrayed throughout this devastating situation,” he said.
Mr Ross criticised Health Secretary Humza Yousaf for rubber-stamping the proposals without allowing opposition politicians to debate its contents.
Sadly, it just fuels suspicions in Moray minds.
– Keep Mum campaigner Marj Adams.
Currently women in Moray can choose between a midwife-led birth at Dr Gray’s, a home birth, or either a midwife or consultant led birth in Aberdeen.
Any complications are sent to Aberdeen if they are not time-critical, or Raigmore if they are, and all elective caesareans are carried out in Aberdeen.
Marj Adams, from the campaign group Keep Mum, earlier warned the Inverness option is not enough for women in Moray.
“Sadly, it just fuels suspicions in Moray minds that NHS Grampian are not, as they say, fully committed to restoring the obstetric unit,” she said.
On Thursday, NHS Grampian’s chief executive Caroline Hiscox insisted the health board is committed to the delivery of an obstetric led service in Elgin, but warned it would take time.
What does the report say?
Under new proposals, facilities at Raigmore will be upgraded and more staff will be recruited by December 2023.
This aims to allow women in Moray to choose to go to Inverness for a midwife or consultant led birth.
But the report does not detail any proposals to introduce consultant led births at Dr Gray’s.
Women can choose between Aberdeen or Inverness if there are any complications, but the report does not detail any option for dealing with complicated births within Moray.
Women will still need to go to Aberdeen for an elective caesarean. But women might be able to go to Inverness by the end of next year.
Health secretary welcomes NHS plans
Mr Yousaf welcomed “ambitious” proposal to make changes before the end of 2023.
The Scottish Government also announced it has appointed the former director of public health at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to oversee changes.
The expert, Professor Linda de Caestecker, is a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Mr Yousaf said: “I will now consider the draft plan alongside additional detail to be submitted in the coming weeks.
“It is right now to allow some time for the plan and associated documents to be scrutinised and discussed in more detail and I intend updating the Scottish Parliament as soon as is practicable at the beginning of the next session.”
The next parliamentary session begins on September 5.