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Maternity campaigners call for action at Gray's

By Sarah Rollo

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HIGH-level talks took place in Moray yesterday after it emerged the deadline for the return of full maternity services at Dr Gray's will be missed.

NHS Grampian had pledged to re-establish consultant-led maternity care at Dr Gray's Hospital by this spring.

Instead, the health authority will look again at an action plan aimed at reinstating maternity services, agreed by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman last May.

That's in light of changes in national guidance around staffing, ongoing recruitment challenges and a recent externally-led review, which found a "best start hub" of midwifery-led care could provide a safe and sustainable model for Moray.

Ms Freeman, who was at Dr Gray's yesterday morning, said she remains committed to the return of a full consultant-led service. And she called for NHS Grampian to have the amended plan back to her by the end of next month.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman during a visit to Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin this week. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman during a visit to Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin this week. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

NHS executive lead for Moray Pam Dudek said: "With all the new information that has come to light, this does mean that our initial aim of the spring 2020 for re-establishment of local consultant led intrapartum care from labour to delivery is not achievable – I know this is disappointing for the women of Moray and we absolutely aim to limit the number of women having to travel, but it is not possible to do so without the right level of expertise available locally.

"Our refreshed plan focused on supporting Moray women in the short, medium and long term will be developed and shared with the Cabinet Secretary at the end of March 2020."

It is 19 months since the consultant-led service was downgraded and Keep MUM campaigner Kirsty Watson said local people, frustrated by the lack of progress, want action.

She said: "We are not reassured by NHS Grampian. We feel NHS Grampian do not have a commitment to return this service and we have highlighted that concern to the Cabinet Secretary today.

"What is positive for us is that she has said she will look into our concerns, and we have highlighted some finer detail on that to her, but I've said to the Cabinet Secretary, 'Saying you have a commitment is not enough, we need to see action here'.

"We are frustrated at the speed of progress. Since the Phase 2 plan was agreed, progress has pretty much halted."

Next steps will be discussed when the Dr Gray's Hospital​ Women's' Services Planning Group, which includes public representatives and Keep MUM campaigners, meets later this week.

Mrs Dudek added: "I agree the timeline is going far slower than we'd hoped, but I would reassure the people of Moray that the local management team and I remain committed to all of our services at Dr Gray’s Hospital and the best and safest delivery of care for the population."

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