Work to restore consultant-led obstetric care at Dr Grays Hospital in Elgin will proceed following the Scottish Government’s approval of plans to re-establish services.
The plan for an integrated maternity service for the North of Scotland, developed jointly by NHS Grampian and NHS Highland, will be backed by up to £6.6 million of Scottish Government investment.
A phased return to obstetric maternity services at Dr Grays will start with enhanced complex obstetric antenatal care and day assessment later this year. Elective caesarean births will re-start in early 2025 with full consultant-led services returning in 2026.
A networked model of care with Raigmore hospital will see Moray women offered a choice of place of birth in early 2025, once refurbishment work has concluded. Refurbishment of the Raigmore maternity unit will be supported through a further £5 million of earmarked funding.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “NHS Grampian and Highland’s ambitious plan will deliver what local people have asked for – a return to obstetric maternity services at Dr Grays in a safe and sustainable way.
“I thank both health boards and their clinical teams for the collaborative and innovative work that has gone into the development of this plan. I am grateful to Professor Linda De Caestecker, who was appointed to provide External Assurance, for her advice and support which has been crucial in getting us to this point.
“Delivering the plan will not be without its challenges, and the collaborative approach NHS Grampian and Highland have in place will provide a solid platform for shared delivery. Professor De Caestecker has agreed to continue to provide external assurance in the first year of the delivery period and I very much welcome this.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead has welcomed the funding, and described today’s announcement as the first serious step forward in plans to restore services at Dr Gray’s and is now urging NHS Grampian to leave no stone unturned as work to recruit key staff gets underway.
He said: “I’m delighted the Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, has delivered £6.6m plans to restore a consultant led maternity service at Dr Gray’s, meaning NHS Grampian can now move forward with the first round of recruitment.
“This feels like the first serious step forward in delivering the plan to restore these vital services in Elgin and it is now imperative that NHS Grampian works flat out, leaving no stone unturned, to secure the staff we need.
“I think everyone in Moray recognises that restoration won’t happen overnight and that services will need to be rebuilt in a phased way, in order to ensure they are safe, sustainable, and fit for the future. This funding from the Scottish Government shows a real commitment to make sure that happens.
“I want to pay tribute to Keep MUM and everyone who has been involved in the campaign to this point.”
Moray MP Douglas Ross has given a ‘cautious welcome’ to the latest announcement regarding maternity services at Dr Gray’s hospital in Elgin from SNP Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.
While Douglas says this is a “step in the right direction” following the concerns he raised with NHS Grampian last week at their board meeting over a lack of urgency, he says much more work needs to be done to give expectant Moray mums and campaigners confidence over the future of maternity services.
He says he will be continuing to hold Humza Yousaf and the SNP-Green government “fully to account” over these plans and says issues around recruiting enough staff to rural and remote locations in Moray and the Highlands remains a “serious issue”.
Mr Ross said: “Confirmation of approval and funding for these plans to restore maternity services at Dr Gray’s is a step in the right direction but much more work needs to be done by Humza Yousaf and this SNP government.
“It is welcome that action has finally been taken by him after I raised my growing concerns only last week with NHS Grampian over the complete lack of urgency following the Health Secretary’s statement to Parliament before Christmas.
“Earmarking millions for this initial implementation is positive, but it is crucial that it is spent in the right areas. The devil will be in the detail of this announcement and the finer print must give expectant mothers in Moray and tireless campaigners confidence once and for all over the return of consultant-led services at Dr Gray’s.
“Many promises have been made before but have proven not to be worth the paper they are written on. The reality still remains that the so-called temporary downgrade of maternity services at Dr Gray’s will have lasted eight years for Moray mums if this plan is realised on time, even now that the misguided Model 4 plans have been scrapped.
“If this implementation is to be successful, then Humza Yousaf needs to recognise that serious issues around recruitment remain. That is exacerbated by the rural and remote geography of Moray and the Highlands and the solid platform he has described could fall apart without the required staff in place.
“The restoration of maternity services at Dr Gray’s in the quickest possible timeframe is an issue that is very personal to me. I will continue to hold Humza Yousaf and the SNP-Green government fully to account on behalf of Moray mums who are desperate for this to succeed.
“Plans must progress without any further delay and this announcement today must be backed up with robust delivery by Humza Yousaf and NHS Grampian.”