AN agreement has been reached to give women facing difficult births at Dr Gray’s the option to travel to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
NHS Grampian announced last Wednesday that the Elgin hospital’s maternity unit was being downgraded due to ongoing problems recruiting staff.
It was stated that, from July 18, expectant mums deemed as medium-risk and above would have to give birth at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
However NHS Grampian and NHS Highland have now agreed that Inverness is also available.
Sue Swift, divisional manager for the women and children’s service, said: "Both NHS Grampian and NHS Highland firmly believe that patient safety must always come before health board boundaries."
"We’ve heard loud and clear from our successful public drop-in sessions that people would prefer to have the option of giving birth in Inverness rather than Aberdeen.
"Ideally we would like to be able to offer the current range of services at Dr Gray’s, however, until we can attract enough people with the right skills to enable us to provide safe care for every category of pregnancy that is simply not possible.
"We would again offer our categorical assurance that these measures are temporary and that maternity and paediatric services are to be retained.
"Dr Gray’s Hospital continues to be vital part of the Moray community and will remain so.
Midwives are currently get in touch with pregnant women to discuss the options, with those due to give birth within six weeks being the immediate priority.
Moray’s MSP welcomed the agreement between the two health boards, but added that a full maternity service needed to be restored at Dr Gray’s.
Richard Lochhead said: "The news that the maternity service at Dr Gray’s is to be temporarily downgraded has caused a lot of concern and anxiety for many pregnant women, particularly those in the west of Moray who faced the prospect of a 160 mile round trip to Aberdeen to deliver their baby.
"Since I was informed of the changes I’ve been pushing for an agreement with Raigmore to be put in place to prevent that from happening, so this announcement is welcome.
"However the fact remains that the consultant-led service at Dr Gray’s needs to be restored as soon as possible.
"I’ve called on the Scottish Government to intervene to ensure that is the case, even if it means doctors being seconded from elsewhere to fill the gaps in Moray."
The first in a number of public events are set to take place at Elgin Town Hall on Thursday.
Staff from across Dr Gray’s and the wider NHS Grampian team will be on hand to answer questions.
NHS Grampian has stated that more details will follow soon.