Temporary reprieve for Maternity Unit is welcomed – with caution

NHS GRAMPIAN HAS confirmed that the immediate future of the Maternity Unit at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin has been secured.

However, the temporary patch-up solution to staff shortages still leaves fears for the long-term future of the unit – something local politicians have said they will keep under close scrutiny.

Fears over the unit’s future first emerged when staff contacted insideMORAY earlier this month, revealing that they had been informed services at the unit would be drastically cut back – and said they feared that was a prelude to complete closure with maternity services being transferred to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Moray’s MP Douglas Ross and MSP Richard Lochhead both demanded immediate talks with NHS Grampian – and were given assurances that all possible would be done to resolve the staffing issues. Now Gary Mortimer, the director of acute services for NHS Grampian, has revealed that a solution has been found.

He said: “I am pleased to confirm that we’ve been able to secure additional staff which, coupled with some changes to the hospital rota, will enable us to continue providing safe, high quality services.

“As a result, there will be no immediate changes to the obstetric or paediatric services and I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr Gray’s and Women & Children’s Divisional teams. They have worked incredibly hard to make this happen and we’re really grateful to them for their dedication to finding a workable solution.

“There is still a lot of work to be done to build sustainable services in Moray, as well as elsewhere in Grampian. Work to develop medium and long-term plans will continue and patients, staff and the public will have a vital role to play in helping us formulate those as we move forward.”

Politicians welcome – but with caution

Douglas Ross MP welcomed the news last night – but added a note of caution. He said: “I am very pleased that NHS Grampian have found a solution to this worrying problem which could have resulted in a loss of services at Dr Gray’s.

“People in Moray fought to have adequate maternity services available locally and any move to reduce this would have been strongly opposed.

“I have been contacted by many constituents who were extremely concerned that possible changes would have resulted in maternity services being moved from Elgin, meaning women having to travel to Inverness or Aberdeen. I’m grateful for the work done by NHS Grampian to avert this and hopefully staff and patients will be encouraged by this news.

“However, I will be seeking reassurances that work is being done to prevent this scenario from happening again. The concern was clear for all to see when the service was under threat and we must avoid that in the future.

“Efforts being made to bring more doctors to Moray will ensure our local NHS services are sustainable and this work must continue.”

Richard Lochhead MSP added that there would be “immense relief” that the unit would continue in Moray delivering “a first class, consultant led service for local families thereby avoiding the need for women to travel to Aberdeen to give birth who would otherwise have expected to be admitted to the Dr Gray’s.”

The Moray MSP added: “The recent uncertainty is a wake-up call that highlights the fragility of Dr Gray’s and smaller district general hospitals in terms of staffing levels and attracting staff to base their careers in Moray. I will now be taking forward talks with the relevant authorities on how we can ensure Dr Gray’s recruitment challenges are prioritised and to put in place a plan to bring about longer term stability for patients and staff.

“For instance, we could perhaps look at Moray becoming a centre for rural medical training.

“The level of concern expressed by the local community illustrates the value Moray’s attaches to a consultant led Maternity Unit and I pay tribute to the local staff would worked so hard to find a solution to the recent challenges.”