Dr Gray’s Maternity Unit

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 15th June 2021.

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Photo of Edward Mountain Edward Mountain Conservative

I thank my colleague Douglas Ross for securing this members’ business debate and for all the work that he is doing standing up for mothers in Moray. I also welcome the support that Richard Lochhead is giving, and I commend the campaigning efforts of the Keep MUM group, which has worked tirelessly to ensure that the local maternity services are restored. The group’s efforts have not been in vain, but they have been frustrated by the SNP Government.

As we have heard, when maternity services were initially downgraded, families were told that that would be only a temporary solution. It was to be for only a year. Three years on, we have seen little progress. I know that expectant mums from Moray are still being forced to travel unacceptable distances to give birth in either Aberdeen or Inverness. Instead of resolving the issue, the Government has launched an independent review to consider how the consultant-led service could be reinstated. That is laudable, but we need results. The people of Moray deserve much more than a review; they deserve urgent action to restore their local maternity services. That is what families in Moray want. I welcome the work of Richard Lochhead and Douglas Ross.

The shocking figures on the decreases in the numbers of babies delivered in Dr Gray’s that Douglas Ross quoted were entirely predictable. The Government refused to deliver maternity services to Caithness, which means that expectant mothers in labour have had to face the prospect of being transported for two hours in the back of an ambulance to reach a centralised urban hospital. How can that be acceptable?

As we all know, pregnancy is already an anxious and stressful time. I do not believe that sending expectant mothers on long journeys, if the roads to Raigmore hospital or to Aberdeen are open, safeguards their wellbeing.

As much as the Government would like to sweep the issue in Caithness under the carpet, it is not going away. The downgrading of maternity services means that more than 90 per cent of expectant mums in Caithness are travelling down to Raigmore. Only 15 out of 160 births happen in the locality. More concerning, inductions have become more commonplace. Just over half Caithness mums are induced for birth in Raigmore hospital. That is far from ideal. The overall impact is that many women in Caithness are apprehensive about starting a family, as are women in Moray. That will not change until there is more use of recovery teams in Caithness or the full deployment of specialist teams to maternity units that are struggling to recruit staff.

That is why Moray needs a consultant-led team.

Our Highland communities do not want the centralisation of more and more services in Inverness and Aberdeen. Families in Caithness and Moray want a Government that protects local services. It is time to restore services fully, so that mothers can give birth locally. We need to cement the fabric of communities by giving the people who want to be part of those communities confidence that they can get care locally. That is what mums need to expect as they start their families, but it will not happen if they have to travel miles to give birth—that is centralisation.

Centralisation is not what we want for our health services in Scotland, of which we are so proud when they deliver care and are run locally.