HEALTH Secretary Humza Yousaf has confirmed he will make a statement in the Scottish Parliament next week on the way forward for maternity services in Moray.
This followed a face-to-face meeting with staff, patients, campaigners and political representatives today to discuss the future of the service at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin.
He also had discussions earlier in the day at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
An independent review – led by the chief executive of NHS Borders, Ralph Roberts and published at the end of last year – recommended that more pregnant women could be transferred to Raigmore to give birth, although that prompted senior clinicians there to raise concerns about the ability of the Highland hospital to cope.
The report stated that the return of a consultant-led service at Dr Gray’s, in the short-term at least, was unlikely.
The service was downgraded from consultant to midwife-led in 2018 due to recruitment issues, which has meant more women giving birth in Aberdeen over the last four years, with the inherent risks and dangers which come with the 65-mile journey.
Following his visit Mr Yousaf said: “I am here to reaffirm this Government’s commitment to delivering the best care for expectant mothers in Moray, that meets their needs and expectations, is safe for them and their babies and reintroduces consultant-led maternity services in Moray. This is an issue I take very seriously and recognise the need to set out the way forward as soon as possible.
“Everyone involved has the same goal – ensuring expectant mothers receive the best possible care as close to home as is possible. Taking the time to get this right now will ensure that the service can be delivered in the long term in a way that ensures the safety of mothers and babies at all times.
“That’s why I pledged to meet with all interested parties and listen to all views in detail before confirming the Government’s response to Ralph Roberts’ report into maternity services at Dr Gray’s Hospital.
“I am grateful to have had a chance to speak to clinicians in Raigmore and Dr Grays, and with local people along with further discussions with NHS Grampian and NHS Highland and I will make a statement to Parliament next week to confirm the way forward shortly.”
John Tomlinson, interim chairman of NHS Grampian said: “Today’s visit from the Cabinet Secretary was a welcome opportunity for him to see the maternity unit at Dr Gray’s Hospital and meet our incredibly dedicated staff ahead of a discussion with women and local groups about the future of maternity services in the north of Scotland.
“I am pleased that he shares our commitment to ensuring expectant mothers receive the best possible care and reassured by the news that he intends to make a statement to Parliament next week regarding the way forward following the Independent Review which was published last November.
“After meeting clinicians from NHS Grampian and NHS Highland today, I hope he has seen first-hand both Boards’ willingness to work collaboratively in the future and that the developing relationship with local people will be a catalyst for positive change.”
Richard Lochhead, Moray MSP joined community representatives for a meeting with the Health Secretary.
Mr Lochhead said: “This latest visit to Moray by the Health Secretary shows he is listening to the local community. The representatives certainly provided a unified voice calling for a focus on the reinstatement of a consultant-led maternity service at Dr Gray’s, irrespective of any planned investment at Raigmore, to allow more women to give birth there rather than having to travel to Aberdeen.
“We need to see similar investment in Dr Gray’s and the rebuilding of the service there as soon as possible so that the majority of women can give birth locally.”
And Moray MP Douglas Ross added: “It’s now over three months since the Cabinet Secretary met with community representatives following publication of the Independent Review.
“There has been a growing frustration that no action has been taken to address the situation regarding maternity services in Moray for almost four years since the consultant-led unit was downgraded in 2018.
“In fairness to the Cabinet Secretary, he listened to all the points put across and has confirmed that he will give a statement to the Scottish Parliament on March 30 outlining the next steps his government intends to take.
“This will be a crucial statement because we need to see clear action towards reinstating a full consultant-led unit at Dr Gray’s.
“It was obvious at the meeting attended by representatives from KeepMUM and MVP (Maternity Voices Partnership) that the situation simply cannot be allowed to drag on any longer.
“The testimony we heard from so many Moray families that have been affected by the downgrading of the unit, were troubling and distressing and crystallise the need to have a full consultant-led maternity unit available for women and families in Moray once again.
“I will continue to question and challenge the Scottish Government and NHS Grampian to provide the level of service that families across Moray deserve and it’s clear at the moment, the options supported by the health board would not be backed by people across Moray.”