Raigmore staff voice concerns over maternity services in letter to Humza Yousaf

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf will give a statement on the maternity care issues in Moray on Tuesday (Photo: Andrew Milligan).

In a letter to Humza Yousaf, a group of 22 maternity staff from Raigmore Hospital in Inverness state patient safety concerns have not been acknowledged and a proposed model of care is “fundamentally flawed”.

Their concerns come after maternity services were downgraded at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin in 2018 due to staff shortages.

Mr Yousaf will be making a statement on the maternity care services in Moray later today.

Following the downgrading of services three years ago due to the continued staffing crisis, almost three quarters of births have been referred to Aberdeen or Inverness.

The move left most pregnant women facing either a 90-minute trip to Aberdeen or a 60-minute trip to Inverness to give birth, depending on conditions.

The Scottish government commissioned a review to examine whether a consultant-led service could be reinstated.

However, its report, published in December, outlined a model (model 4) which would see women being given the choice of delivering their baby at either Dr Gray’s – if they are classed as low risk – Aberdeen or Raigmore, with antenatal care provided at Dr Gray’s.

The staff in the letter state this model is “fundamentally flawed due to its intentional discontinuity of care for pregnant women, not just between clinical teams but between health boards”.

The staff also raise issues with proposals from senior health board management spending £5 million on a “clinically disruptive refurbishment of the maternity unit” which adds “not one single bed to its capacity”.The letter states a business case drawn up by NHS Highland contains “numerous factual errors and baseless assumptions” on areas such as the number of deliveries at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness per year. The case states the estimated number of additional Raigmore deliveries per year under the model is 190. However, the staff said evidence suggests the numbers would be more along the lines of 650-900, representing a 32-45% increase in the Raigmore birth rate.

A new maternity unit has been proposed by the staff, to permit the care – under any model – of any “significant additional number” of pregnant women.

The letter states: “Model 4 must therefore be rejected and the consultant-led service at Dr Gray’s Hospital re-established as a matter of urgency. In order to deliver safe and sustainable maternity care to the women of the Highlands, we ask for your urgent help with regard to our midwifery staffing crisis, our middle grade medical staffing crisis and our need for a new maternity/gynaecology/neonatal unit.”

Mr Yousaf will be delivering a statement to Parliament on the issue at 2.50pm today.

He is expected to detail plans for reinstating a full consultant-led maternity unit at Dr Gray’s.

However, Douglas Ross, MP for Moray, previously said he would be “holding Mr Yousaf to to account on how exactly he plans to fully restore maternity services in Moray”.

In Holyrood in March this year, Mr Yousaf said: “I have to be guided by the clinical view on how to do that [the implementation of Model 4] safely, because I certainly do not intend to be the health secretary who makes a decision that puts women at risk.”

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