In-patient Births (Galloway Community Hospital)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd June 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with NHS Dumfries and Galloway regarding the reinstatement of in-patient births at the community maternity unit within the Galloway community hospital. (S6O-01277)

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Officials and the chief midwifery officer met the head of midwifery at NHS Dumfries and Galloway in May 2022. The Scottish Government is aware of the potential issues, and we continue to engage with the health board to explore ways forward.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

It is four years—long before the pandemic—since in-patient births at the Galloway were halted because poor workforce planning meant that we had a chronic shortage of midwives. The minister will know that, in rural areas, not being able to fill even a couple of vacancies can mean that a service does not exist at all.

Does the minister agree that it is utterly unacceptable that women in Wigtownshire face the real fear of having to give birth in a lay-by en route to hospital in Dumfries, which is two hours away, because the community maternity unit on their doorstep is closed? More importantly, will he say what specific action the Scottish Government is taking to ensure that we have the midwives who are needed in rural communities? Women in Galloway should not be treated differently just because they live in a rural area.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government expects all boards to provide maternity services that are delivered as close to home as possible, including the option of home birth services. However, that has to be balanced with ensuring the safety of mothers and babies when they need access to hospital maternity and neonatal services.

Under this Government, the number of nurses and midwives has grown. I recognise that there are difficulties in recruitment in certain parts of the country. My colleague Maree Todd is working on that. She is taking a close interest in the situation, and I am sure that she will be willing to speak further with Mr Smyth to ensure that progress is made.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

Although I understand that the NHS Scotland resource allocation committee is the regularly and independently reviewed system of working out funding allocations to health boards across Scotland, and that health boards are free to make decisions on where their priorities lie, we have already heard that the midwife-led community maternity unit in Stranraer, which was once the eighth busiest of Scotland’s 22 such units, is closed for births, whereas other similar CMUs are still in place. If the formula is fit for purpose for rural areas, it should address the health inequities that pregnant women in Wigtownshire face in having to travel for two hours to get to a maternity hospital. Will the minister look at that shocking situation and commit to a reassessment of NRAC, specifically for rural and island communities?

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

I am sure that the cabinet secretary would be willing to look at any proposal that Mr Carson has on NRAC. However, that is the formula that is in place. If Mr Carson is calling for a review, he should write to the cabinet secretary. That might be popular in some areas but not in others. From my time in local government, I know about the arguments on the local government funding formula.

I repeat to Mr Carson exactly what I said to Mr Smyth—

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

The Government expects all boards to provide maternity services that are delivered as close to home as possible, in a safe manner.