Published: 12/07/2018 13:00 - Updated: 11/07/2018 16:48

Raigmore birth fears over staff shortages

Written byNeil MacPhail


Raigmore Hospital
Raigmore Hospital could see more Moray mothers having their babies there, raising fears about capacity.

NHS Highland says that Raigmore Hospital’s maternity unit can cope with taking emergency or difficult pregnancies from NHS Grampian’s Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin following a staffing crisis there.

However the numbers of women being transferred to Inverness would be monitored by the authority.

An NHS Highland spokeswoman said low risk pregnancies will continue to give birth at Dr Gray’s which has been downgraded temporarily to a midwife-led service following a shortage of consultants.

The spokeswoman said: "If births don’t go as planned and there is a need for transfer in labour (intrapartum transfers) these will be taken to Raigmore Hospital as it is a shorter journey than to Aberdeen for a woman in labour.

"It is estimated that this would amount to around 20 transfers per annum.

"All medium and high risk pregnancies that require consultant-level care will be referred for birth to Aberdeen Maternity unit.

"Discussions were held with obstetric and paediatric consultant colleagues and midwifery staff at Raigmore Hospital before it was agreed to accept women requiring intrapartum transfer from the Elgin midwifery led unit.

"We anticipate low numbers of women (less than 20) requiring intrapartum transfer from Elgin which Raigmore would be able to cope with. The transfer numbers will be monitored."

The Raigmore spokeswoman added: "There are no consultant vacancies in obstetrics. We have recently completed our recruitment campaign for the vacancies there were and we have been successful in appointing and are just awaiting them to start."

Elgin is 39 miles from Inverness, and Aberdeen is 66 miles away. Public consultation by Grampian NHS revealed that most women would prefer the option of Inverness than Aberdeen.

A spokesperson for Royal College of Nursing Scotland said: "We understand concerns around the changes to services at Dr Gray’s. NHS Grampian has discussed the need to make this change on the grounds of patient safety with Royal College of Nursing members at the hospitals affected."

The plan was been described as "unsafe" by the Keep Mum (Maternity Unit for Moray) campaign group who claimed Grampian Health Board failed to offer any reassurances about the safety of the service. A petition calling for a rethink on the changes, which are due to come into effect on Monday, has gathered more than 10,000 supporters.

A spokeswoman for Keep Mum said: "The NHS cannot confirm if there are sufficient staff and beds at Aberdeen and Inverness to cope with the extra patients from Elgin. They cannot confirm whether any emergency or lifesaving surgery can be undertaken at Dr Gray’s from July 16.

"We feel that the safety of mothers and their babies is going to be severely compromised."

NHS Grampian insisted their priority was keeping women and their babies safe, and stressed talks with expectant mothers are under way.

Sue Swift, divisional manager for the Women and Children’s Service said: "We want to reassure women who choose to birth at Dr Gray’s that should any clinical indication present which may impact on her or her baby then they will be transferred to Raigmore where consultant care is available.

"Both NHS Grampian and NHS Highland firmly believe that patient safety must come before health board boundaries."

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