Report into maternity services at Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin
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More pregnant women from Moray will give birth in Inverness rather than face the even longer journey to Aberdeen.
A long-awaited independent report into maternity services at Dr Gray's in Elgin has been published today.
However, it offers no quick solutions to women hoping to give birth locally.
It is three years since the Elgin hospital was downgraded from being a consultant-led service.
As a result, nearly four in five women from Moray and Banff now face having to give birth in Aberdeen.
Today's independent report, which was ordered by the Scottish Government in response to widespread concern at the ongoing situation, makes what is calls several 'short-term' recommendations.
Firstly, midwives should continue to deliver 'low-risk' births at Dr Gray's – which accounts for about 20% of all Moray births.
However, consultants should also provide elective caesarean sections at the Elgin hospital.
This, the report says, would have the potential to increase the number of local births by a further 20%.
Furthermore, in the event of an emergency, women should be transferred by ambulance to Inverness rather than to Aberdeen, unless there are medical reasons which require the Granite City's specialist unit.
However, the report conceeds that, due to the current staffing issues at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, even these short term measures might take two years to fully implement.
The report highlights the issue of women having to travel to Aberdeen.
One was quoted as saying: "I had been deemed a high risk but there had been agreement that I could still have my baby in Dr Gray’s.
"However, after 35 hours of labour, it was decided that I was not progressing and that I had to go to Aberdeen.
"My husband had to drive me and I was in so much pain that the only way I could achieve any level of comfort was to kneel in the back seat facing backwards holding the headrest.
"I had no seatbelt on the whole way."
In the longer term the report recommends a midwife-led and consultant-supported service for Dr Gray's.
This, it says, has the potential to allow between 50%-70% of births to take place in Moray.
However, it makes no recommendations that a consultant-led service should be re-introduced to Dr Gray's.
The report, which was originally due to be published in June, also highlights the work of NHS staff.
It states: "It is important to stress that women, almost without fail, would sing the praises of the staff they interacted with.
"Often mothers recognised that both Aberdeen and Raigmore were busy, and described feeling like they were an ‘extra’ on top of the maternity staff’s already heavy workload.
"Yet compassion and kindness in how they were treated were expressed as the norm."
One woman was quoted as saying: "I feel genuinely sorry for the staff at Dr Gray’s.
"They are amazing, and delivered my first baby (prior to 2018) with kindness and a care that made every moment memorable, even the painful parts!
"I hope they can get back to this soon."
There were 869 births at Dr Gray's in 2017 before the hospital was downgraded.
This compares to just 178 last year.
Over the same period there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of women from Moray and Banff giving birth in Aberdeen.
These numbers have risen from 125 to 714.
The full 127-page report can be downloaded and viewed HERE