Health Secretary Humza Yousaf says he would not want his child to be born in a lay-by, after two mums were forced to do exactly that in Moray in the last six months.
Campaign group Keep Mum is calling for maternity services at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin to be drastically improved, warning there could be a “tragedy” if action is not taken.
The maternity unit at the hospital was downgraded in 2018.
Since then most women in Moray have had to go to either Aberdeen Maternity Hospital or Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to give birth.
But as a consequence of this 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.
And the health secretary now says he understands the concerns of the Keep Mum campaigners, and said he wouldn’t want his own family to have to go through the ordeal.
Health secretary shares concerns
Keep Mum previously told the Press and Journal some women are putting off having a family because of their concerns over care.
Marj Adams from the group said: “We really fear there could be a tragedy, there could be a death of a mother or a baby – or both.
“Really we are on the cliff-edge.
“It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”
Last week NHS Grampian and NHS Highland jointly published plans to see how maternity services at Dr Gray’s can be improved.
But it did not detail any proposals to introduce consultant-led births or elective caesareans in Moray – a key demand by campaigners.
Mr Yousaf said changes will be made to maternity care in Moray and said the government is “absolutely committed” to maintaining the safety of women and their unborn children.
When asked to address the specific concerns highlighted by the Keep Mum group, he said: “I share those concerns.
“In relation to people having to give birth in a lay-by, that is not what I would want for my child.”
Douglas Ross: Urgent action needed
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross said he is pleased Mr Yousaf acknowledges the plight of new mums in Moray, but added he needs to “urgently” restore consultant-led births at Dr Gray’s.
Mr Ross himself was warned his wife may have to give birth in a lay-by while she was being transferred to Aberdeen to give birth last year.
The Moray MP said: “I’m glad that Humza Yousaf agrees that, in the 21st century, children shouldn’t be born in a lay-by.
“And I’m sure he’s also concerned about the welfare of mums who are rushed to Aberdeen during labour.
“The prospect of that terrified me when my wife was pregnant and we had to make that journey a year ago.
“This is the reality faced by so many Moray mums, ever since maternity services were downgraded at Dr Gray’s four years ago.
“It’s all very well showing empathy for the concerns of Keep Mum and other campaigners but the SNP health secretary knows there’s only one way to resolve the situation – we need the urgent restoration of a consultant-led maternity unit at Elgin.”