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Births fall at Moray maternity unit as MSPs demand restored service – Evening Express

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The number of women giving birth at Dr Gray’s in Elgin has dramatically fallen in the years since it was “downgraded” from a consultant-led unit.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross listed the decline after raising concerns about pregnant women being forced to travel outside the region to hospitals including Aberdeen.

The Moray MP, who is also MSP for the region, called for urgent answers from the SNP Government about returning the hospital to its former status to ease anxiety among local families.

In a debate in Holyrood on Tuesday evening, backed by political rivals, Mr Ross referred to figures showing more than 1,000 births were recorded in the maternity unit before tailing off in 2018.

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He praised the continuing “great care” at the unit but said the region needs a wider service.

‘Figures tell the story’

“In 2020, the last full year, the number of births in Elgin was 178,” he told MSPs.

“Less than 20% of the births of Moray mums took place in Moray – 714 went to Aberdeen, 16 went to Raigmore, and 13 were home births.

“That is why these figures tell the story themselves. So many mums having to travel outwith Moray.”

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We revealed yesterday how Mr Ross and his wife Krystle were anxious one week before their second child is due. He said they were determined to stay at Dr Gray’s and were lucky to be on a “green pathway” for delivery at the unit.

But women with potential complications face going elsewhere. Any any last minute changes could still send Mrs Ross to Aberdeen, nearly 70 miles away.

Richard Lochhead, SNP MSP for Moray, said his younger son was born at Dr Gray’s and restoring the services would help keep people in the area.

Douglas Ross with his wife Krystle and son Alistair.

“They’ll have a much greater degree of confidence if we have that restored sooner rather than later,” he said.

Mr Ross said the cross-party support shows the issue has wide support.

An independent review was announced in March by Jeane Freeman, who was SNP health secretary at the time. She stepped down at the election on May 6.

The review is being led by NHS Borders chief executive Ralph Roberts who is expected to report back with recommendation in this month. He is considering if a consultant-led services can be reinstated.

Staff shortages were blamed for the downgrade in July 2018.

Speaking in March before she resigned, Ms Freeman said: “My position hasn’t changed and I remain committed to the reintroduction of consultant-led maternity services at Dr Gray’s in a safe and sustainable way. This Independent Review will consider, and where appropriate contribute to, the work underway in the ‘Best Start North’ review, commissioned jointly by NHS Grampian, Highland and the Island Boards, to examine the model of maternity and neonatal services in the North that will report later in the year.

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“The review will consider all the issues and hear directly from staff at Dr Gray’s and the local community. I expect the review to conclude and report to the Cabinet Secretary in June 2021.”

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