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Fewer pregnant mums will have to travel to Aberdeen to give birth after NHS Grampian announced elective cesarean sections at Dr Gray’s Hospital will be reintroduced earlier than planned.
The health board said that the recruitment of additional staff, including the two locum consultants who started work last month, combined with support by existing clinicians from across the hospital, had helped make the safe reintroduction possible.
The announcement follows a meeting between Moray MSP Richard Lochhead and the Acting Chief Executive of NHS Grampian, Amanda Croft, for further talks on efforts to step up maternity and children’s services at Dr Gray’s.
The discussions took place ahead of a planned visit by the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman, to the hospital this coming week. The Health Secretary will meet with local campaigners and staff to discuss the ongoing recruitment challenges affecting the service.
NHS Grampian confirmed that elective caesareans are now able to be carried out at Dr Gray’s, and that the number of Moray women delivering their babies in Elgin has increased to over 35% over the last month.
Sue Swift, divisional manager for the Women and Children’s Service at Dr Gray’s Hospital, said: “This is a really positive step forward. We’re delighted that all the hard work behind the scenes is beginning to pay off and that patients will soon be able to start to feel the benefits.
“We’ve been able to bolster the consultant staffing with two locums and refine how we are doing things elsewhere in the hospital to free up some other additional support. The net result is that we are now in a position to reintroduce elective cesarean sections which means additional choices for Moray mums.
“We’ve always been clear that these changes were temporary and that we would reintroduce services as soon as we were able to safely do so. This is a firm demonstration of that and I’d like to reassure people that we’ll continue to incrementally step up services were it is safe to do so.
“People have been very clear that they want us to do that where we can, even if it is only temporary. While today’s announcement is very good news, there is real a chance that we will face workforce issues in February that may mean we have to stop offering elective caesarean sections at Dr Gray’s again.”
The early restoration of cesarean sections forms part of the action plan designed to restore a consultant led Women and Children’s service at Dr Gray’s Hospital.
Ms Swift continued: “We appreciate this isn’t going to solve all of the issues we face and we remain committed to the restoration of a consultant led service in the long term. We continue to work unwaveringly towards that but, as we’ve always said, it won’t happen overnight given the complexity of the staffing issues we face at the hospital.
“Our work with the Scottish Government continues with encouraging progress each week and we hope to be able to publish the full action plan shortly.”
She continued: “The early reintroduction of elective cesareans is just one of the things we are pursuing and we will continue to explore other possibilities that help minimise travel for local families and increase the choices available for Moray mums while this interim service is in place. We have a travel expenses fund in place to help support mums and their birthing partner with the cost of getting to and from Aberdeen or Inverness to have their baby but we are keen to provide any additional support and advice where we can.
“We’ve made some good progress with our partner agencies in recent weeks on that and we hope to be able to announce a range of additional support shortly. ”
Ms Swift said mums should continue to discuss any issues or concerns they have about travel or their own particular delivery options with their midwife directly as they are in the best position to offer advice on the most appropriate options for their individual circumstances.