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Moray maternity campaigners hit out over NHS Grampian's Covid-19 'smokescreen' on restoration of consultant-led unit

By Lorna Thompson

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LOCAL campaigners have described an NHS Grampian update on maternity care in Moray as "depressing".

NHS Grampian, which downgraded the Dr Gray’s maternity unit in July 2018 over staffing levels, said yesterday that it did not anticipate making any significant changes while the NHS remains in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic – despite it being a critical service.

For the time being, the health board said, the labour ward in Elgin will remain midwife-led.

Keep MUM campaigners, fighting for the return of a consultant-led service at Dr Gray's Hospital, said this was "a smokescreen" and questioned the will of health bosses to bring the unit back to full strength.

A Keep MUM spokesperson said: "The crucial point here is that maternity care is a critical service, yet nothing is being done.

"Why is Covid preventing work being done on the restoration of the unit? Where exactly would we be if Covid hadn’t happened? Would the unit be restored to consultant status by now?

"The current service model is not what women want.

"Sadly, we don’t believe that progress would be any further forward as we believe that there is no will to restore a consultant-led service."

Elgin's Dr Gray's Hospital. Picture: Eric Cormack.
Elgin's Dr Gray's Hospital. Picture: Eric Cormack.

NHS Grampian, which launched a new engagement process involving local maternity groups, Best Start North, in summer, said Moray's maternity services remained a priority.

But the Keep MUM spokesperson said: "How can Moray maternity service be a priority if there is no progress? Shockingly, NHS Grampian have made no progress with maternity services in Moray in more than three years."

Meanwhile NHS Grampian yesterday backtracked on a temporary closure of Dr Gray's Hospital's birthing pool while a new pool is fitted.

After anxiety created by the surprise announcement on Wednesday, November 4 that water births in Moray would be out of the question until March next year, the health board said the original birthing pool would now remain available until the new pool is ready.

The Keep Mum spokesperson said: "Obviously, this is good news – it’s unfortunate that very few Moray women are able to take advantage of it. Most Moray women give birth in Aberdeen.

"However, it is also very disappointing that NHS Grampian didn’t have the foresight to realise that suddenly removing the birthing pool was unfair to women."

Work will begin on three new labour wards and the new birthing pool at Dr Gray's Hospital on Monday, November 16.

NHS Grampian said Best Start North will use an engagement tool, called "Sensemaker", for women and staff to tell their stories about their experiences of maternity services in Moray, which it said should be up and running within weeks.

The campaign group said: "We very much hope that NHS Grampian will listen to these stories."

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