Dr Gray’s Maternity Unit

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

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate, and I thank Douglas Ross for bringing it to the chamber today. I also acknowledge that Richard Lochhead, who is the constituency MSP for Elgin, has been very active on the matter, and it is good to see cross-party working on the issue.

I will focus my remarks on the Scottish Government’s review of maternity services at Dr Gray’s hospital, and on similar issues presented by rurality that are experienced by women across Dumfries and Galloway in my South Scotland region, particularly in Stranraer and Wigtownshire.

I agree with the motion that the decision to downgrade maternity services in Elgin, albeit on clinical safety grounds, has caused serious concern for many women and families across the area. Douglas Ross mentioned travel distances for mums who are on a green pathway, but for many expecting mothers with medium or high-risk pregnancies, the prospect of travelling many miles for maternity services will cause much anxiety. It is a 150-mile round trip from Stranraer to Dumfries, and friends’ experiences tell me that many people get anxious when having to travel such a distance.

I, too, commend the work of the Keep MUM group in ensuring that a proper, consultant-led maternity service is restored at Dr Gray’s hospital as soon as possible. I also commend the work of the doctors, midwives, nurses and the whole multidisciplinary team at Dr Gray’s hospital for their professionalism in working with mothers and all other patients.

I welcome the fact that, in March, the Scottish Government commissioned an independent review into maternity services at Dr Gray’s hospital, which is being chaired by Ralph Roberts, the chief executive of NHS Borders. The independent review is currently considering

“how a consultant-led service could be reinstated that is safe, deliverable and sustainable and will take into account the views of women, their families, staff and stakeholders.”

The review is due to publish its findings later this month, and I look forward to seeing its recommendations. I welcome the Scottish Government’s action to see a safe, consultant-led maternity service for mothers across Elgin and wider Moray.

Across Wigtownshire in my South Scotland region, expecting mothers have also faced issues when it comes to maternity services. Since 2018, there have only been out-patient maternity services at the Galloway community hospital, meaning that expecting mothers have to either have a home birth or travel on a 150-mile round trip to Dumfries and Galloway royal infirmary when they go into labour. However, a number of antenatal services such as ultrasound, treatment of early-onset complications, such as pre-eclampsia, and managing post-delivery issues are being delivered at the Galloway community hospital.

The situation has presented many challenges for women across the area, particularly when it comes to urgent cases and medium and high-risk pregnancies. Therefore, I ask the cabinet secretary in his closing speech to confirm whether there are options available for rural hospitals such as the Galloway community hospital and Dr Gray’s. I also ask him whether the review is looking at the whole multidisciplinary team with regard to the required skills and competence and the support that is needed to re-establish an obstetrician-led team at Dr Gray’s. In my experience as a clinical nurse educator in NHS Dumfries and Galloway before coming to the Parliament, I know how important it is to have safety as the number 1 priority.

I welcome the debate and the action that the Scottish Government is taking to allow for the re-establishment of a consultant-led maternity service at Dr Gray’s hospital in Elgin. I repeat my ask that the cabinet secretary explores innovative ways for rural health board settings, such as in Galloway and Elgin, to continue to deliver to meet the needs of the local people.