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Healthcare in Elgin: Minister coming to Moray to discuss Dr Gray's

By Alistair Whitfield

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Scotland's Health Secretary is coming to Moray to discuss the findings of an independent report into maternity services at Dr Gray's Hospital.

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

The report published today makes a number of recommendations to help increase the number of births at the hospital.

However, it does not suggest a consultant-led service should once again be established at the Elgin hospital.

The number of births at Dr Gray's have fallen by three-quarters since its maternity services were downgraded in 2018.

Humza Yousaf will make a statement in Holyrood about Dr Gray's.

In addition, he has announced his intention to come to Moray to further discuss the situation at the hospital.

This move has been welcomed by both Richard Lochhead, Moray's MSP, and Douglas Ross, its MP.

Speaking about Dr Gray's, Mr Lochhead said: "This is a thorough report that arose out of the need to build back maternity services at Dr Gray’s.

"I thank the review group for their work and engagement with the Moray community and local staff, and I hope this effort will now be matched by NHS Grampian so that we can deliver the services that the people of Moray deserve.

"The review provides a roadmap to an enhanced maternity service, where up to 70% of babies are born locally compared to just 20% at the moment.

"However, the Health Secretary has said he doesn’t rule out any options at this stage as he considers the report.

"The Health Secretary has helpfully offered to come to Moray to meet local stakeholders and community representatives to discuss the report.

"I will be keen to discuss with him how we accelerate the enhancements and address any obstacles to going further."

Humza Yousaf was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care in May.
Humza Yousaf was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care in May.

The review team which wrote the report was led by Ralph Roberts, Chief Executive of NHS Borders.

Over the course of several months it took evidence from a wide range of stakeholders over several months.

Mr Ross met with the review team earlier this year and shared his family’s experience after his second son, James, was born in Aberdeen following an emergency transfer from Elgin.

He said: "First and foremost the review team have ruled out the status quo describing it as ‘inappropriate’, but we have been living with this level of service here in Moray for over three years.

"Like everyone else I hoped the report would recommend the return of a full consultant-led unit at Dr Gray’s but they have suggested that would be undeliverable.

"While the review team conclude in the short term that transferring more women to Raigmore is the preferred option, they accept that it could take two years to get the staff and capacity in Inverness to deliver that.

"So Moray families have to continue with the inappropriate status quo for years to come.

"There are also major questions to be answered about how Raigmore will deal with this big increase in Moray mums giving birth there.

"Last year only 16 Moray women gave birth in Raigmore, compared to over 700 in Aberdeen.

"The best outcome is more women giving birth locally in Elgin with the outstanding team of midwives and staff we have here in Moray.

"There is no doubt it’s a better and shorter journey to Inverness, but I followed my wife and our unborn child as they were blue lighted from Elgin and no matter how far away the hospital is, I wouldn’t wish that journey on anyone.

"I know how stressful Krystle found the transfer, despite the best efforts of the great team with her.

"I agree with the report that there will always be a need for the option to transfer someone in emergency situations to a bigger hospital to get more specialised support, but they should be the exception rather than the rule.

Mr Ross added: "The future of Dr Gray’s as a whole is brought into focus with this report as well.

"The various options depend on Dr Gray’s continuing as a vibrant district hospital delivery a wide range of services, yet the report highlights that development of the hospital has not continued in line with other comparable Scottish hospitals.

"We have raised concerns for a long time that the removal of services could lead to the downgrading of the whole hospital.

"These points were dismissed by NHS Grampian, but now they have to act and show this isn’t the case.

"That will require investment and I will be urging them to support our local services at Dr Gray’s.

"The Scottish Health Secretary has confirmed he will make a statement to Parliament and visit Moray to discuss the report and I welcome that.

"But it is now crucial that the Scottish Government and NHS Grampian work quickly with the local community here in Moray to improve our maternity services to save mums and families having to experience an inappropriate model of maternity services."

Related article: Report into maternity services at Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin

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