Maternity Services (Wigtownshire)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

4. To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to ensure that women in Wigtownshire have the choice to give birth as close to home as possible. (S6O-03097)

Photo of Jenni Minto Jenni Minto Scottish National Party

We expect all national health service boards to provide maternity services that are delivered as close to home as is practical, balanced with ensuring the safety of mother and baby.

NHS Dumfries and Galloway has been consulting on two options for maternity care in Wigtownshire. The consultation closed on 11 February 2024, with feedback being carried out by an independent third sector organisation. The board will receive a report on the consultation by the end of March. Following internal governance processes, it is expected to be presented at a meeting of the integration joint board in June 2024.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

In recent correspondence, the Scottish Government made clear its expectation that all women, at all times, will receive high-quality person-centred maternity care that is tailored to their needs, with quality and safety for mothers and babies being central to decision making. If that is the case, why are mothers-to-be in Wigtownshire, who have no underlying health issues and who do not want to give birth at home, still having to travel 75 miles to give birth in Dumfries, despite a recent review that recommended the return of midwife-led births in the west of my constituency in a perfectly suitable birthing suite that is lying mothballed in Stranraer?

Photo of Jenni Minto Jenni Minto Scottish National Party

As I explained, NHS Dumfries and Galloway decided on that review, and the integration joint board will decide on the options in June this year. That is when the decision will be made. It is a local decision that will be made by the health board.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

With my support to facilitate its happening, members of the Galloway community hospital action group—my constituents Dr Angela Armstrong, Dr Gordon Baird and former charge nurse Janice Mayall—recently gave evidence to the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee as part of our health in remote and rural areas inquiry. Their evidence included the current situation regarding maternity services in Wigtownshire. NHS D and G leadership recently stated that recruitment of midwives is a key challenge to improving the situation.

Will the minister commit to looking closely at the outcome of the health committee’s report when we publish it and, in particular, at how we can improve recruitment?

Photo of Jenni Minto Jenni Minto Scottish National Party

Emma Harper has raised an incredibly important point about recruitment in rural areas. I am happy to look at the report once the committee delivers it.

Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

Midwives in Wigtownshire and across my South Scotland region are facing increasing pressures in their workload due to rapidly growing work. The pressure is intensified in the region by travel distances between the towns and villages.

As Emma Harper did, I note that if the Scottish Government is truly going to ensure that women in Wigtownshire and other rural areas have a choice of where to give birth, it will have to tackle recruitment and retention. Can the minister give us a timescale for when she might be able to look at the issue for that particular area? Retention is a major issue in the midwife profession.

Photo of Jenni Minto Jenni Minto Scottish National Party

Given that I represent a rural constituency, I recognise the point that both Carol Mochan and Emma Harper have raised. I cannot give a specific date, but we are working at pace in respect of the review. I will be happy to inform Carol Mochan when I know when that is likely to happen.