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A96 snow gates proposal highlights need for Elgin consultant-led maternity unit – Moray MP Douglas Ross

By Lorna Thompson

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MORAY'S MP says the possibility that snow gates could be installed on the A96 highlights the vital need for a consultant-led maternity unit in Elgin.

Conservative Douglas Ross has reiterated his concerns for local women in labour who face transfer journeys along the trunk road to give birth at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

BEAR Scotland is currently consulting on the installation of snow gates at the eastern and western sides of the Glens of Foudland.

Mr Ross said the fact that physical snow gates may be required to close the road serves as a reminder of how unsuitable the current situation is for pregnant women and their families.

He said: "This means that if we have any snow the road could be closed at short notice – and that would be awful for any women in Moray who are having to be transferred in labour to the maternity hospital in Aberdeen.

"There would be a very real risk of people giving birth on the A96 in the back of an ambulance.

"I made this journey myself earlier this year when Krystle was transferred in labour as she gave birth to James. It was a horrible journey, but at least we were fortunate it was during the summer.

"The fact these gates are needed just shows how quickly the weather can make the road unpassable.

"This highlights how essential it is for the return to a consultant-led maternity unit at Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin."

Maternity services at Dr Gray's Hospital were downgraded in summer 2018 over staff shortages.

Dr Gray's Hospital, in Elgin. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Dr Gray's Hospital, in Elgin. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

An independent review into the possible return of full-strength maternity services at Dr Gray's was originally due to report its findings and recommendations in June, but has been delayed until this month.

Mr Ross added: "I hope that the independent review into maternity services at Dr Gray's, which is due to be submitted to the Scottish Government imminently, takes account of women's safety. Far too many Moray women and their families are making this journey and we need to see more women able to give birth closer to home in Dr Gray's.

"It is now three years since our maternity services were downgraded. At the time we were promised that things would be resolved in a year, yet here we are with the prospect of another winter and women still having to be transferred in sometimes horrendous weather.

"If snow gates are shut without warning, what will happen to women already en route and for those in labour in Elgin where a decision is taken that they have to be transferred to Aberdeen?

"It is simply unacceptable, and I hope that NHS Grampian and the Scottish Government take the action needed to stop women in Moray being put in danger by having to travel for up to two hours to give birth."

A spokesperson for BEAR Scotland said: "We're currently in the consultation process regarding the installation of snow gates at the eastern and western sides of the Glens of Foudland and welcome all feedback from local residents.

"The manually operated gates would be constructed at either end of the section in order to allow safe closure of the roadway and minimise the risks of hazardous winter weather to the travelling public.

"The snow gates would only be closed when the road is deemed unpassable by Police Scotland due to severe conditions and, in such rare instances, it is considered that transfers would not be possible."

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