The member will be aware that, in March this year, the previous Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care approved the plan for integrated maternity services across the north of Scotland, with consultant-led obstetric services at Dr Gray’s hospital, and that the plan was supported with an initial investment of up to £6.6 million.
Although model 4 is not continuing as previously outlined in the Ralph Roberts review, the elements in model 4 continue to feature in the approved plan. Under that plan, Raigmore will continue to accept around one to two women per week who require emergency transfer in labour from Dr Gray’s. In addition, from 2025 and in line with the expected completion of building refurbishment work in Raigmore and increased staffing levels associated with the networked model of care, it is expected that Moray women will be able to choose to birth in Raigmore in addition to Dr Gray’s or Aberdeen maternity hospital. I expect to see the revised NHS Highland business case for Raigmore maternity services once it has been through board approval processes.
NHS Highland is spending £9 million to expand Raigmore’s maternity unit, with the help of a £5 million allocation from the Scottish Government. Can the minister explain how Raigmore will cope with an estimated 500 extra births per year, as was explained at the board meeting yesterday, when the updated unit, when built, will increase capacity by only one additional bed space in the labour suite?
The plan for a networked model of maternity care in the north, which was approved in March 2023, envisages women from Moray being able to choose to birth in Raigmore from 2025. As I mentioned, I expect to receive the revised business case from NHS Highland shortly. I am aware that it was discussed at the NHS Highland board meeting yesterday and is available online, but I will consider it fully and look at the points that the member has raised once it is submitted.
Although we should not be in any doubt about the scale of the challenges in delivering the plan, it is welcome that the services will now be rebuilt in a phased way to ensure that they are safe, sustainable and fit for the future. Given the importance of these developments, will the minister provide assurances that she will keep Parliament updated as the delivery period progresses?
Karen Adam makes an important point. She will be aware that the previous Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care on numerous occasions reiterated his commitment to returning consultant-led maternity services to Dr Gray’s, and that that is also a manifesto pledge. I can give an absolute assurance that, as progress is made, I am happy to keep Parliament updated.