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Health Secretary holds 'positive' online meetings on Dr Gray's maternity services report


By Ewan Malcolm

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SCOTTISH Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said he had positive discussions on the findings of an independent report into maternity services at Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf had to cancel his planned visit to Moray due to concerns around Covid-19.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf had to cancel his planned visit to Moray due to concerns around Covid-19.

Mr Yousaf spoke with Moray locals, clinicians and elected representatives in an online meeting yesterday. The Health Secretary had planned to travel to Moray to discuss the report in person but was forced to postpone his visit due to concerns over the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Yousaf said: "It has been good to hear the views of local people, clinicians and elected representatives from Moray and I repeat our commitment to move forward with making significant improvements to maternity services at Dr Gray’s.

"We are carefully considering the recommendations of the review along with the first-hand observations and concerns of those with a personal interest in a return to obstetric-led services in a safe and sustainable way.

"I will travel to Moray at the earliest possible opportunity to meet all interested parties in person, when covid guidance allows."

Local campaign group Keep MUM were pleased to be included in the discussion after three years of campaigning. And, after meeting with the Independent Review team in June this year and holding discussions with Mr Yousaf yesterday, the group is looking forward to future involvement.

Kirsty Watson, a spokesperson for Keep MUM, said: "It was a positive feeling from the meeting and Keep MUM had the chance to engage fully.

"The Health Secretary realises that the current provision of maternity services in Moray is unacceptable and expressed sympathy with the situation.

"We discussed the fact that with around 1,000 births per annum in Moray, the Scottish Government do need to ensure that maternity (and other healthcare services) are adequate.

"Keep Mum will very much welcome any opportunity to work with Humza Yousaf and his team. We will do anything we can to assist in the process to regain the required services at Dr Gray's.

"The Health Secretary agreed with us that the majority of Moray women should be able to give birth in Moray and this is a big step forward.

"We feel communication is now open and effective with the Health Secretary. We look forward to beginning to see the clear plan for healthcare in Moray and how immediate and long term changes will be made."

Kirsty Watson and Keep MUM have long campaigned for the restoration of a consultant led maternity unit at Dr Gray's in Elgin. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Kirsty Watson and Keep MUM have long campaigned for the restoration of a consultant led maternity unit at Dr Gray's in Elgin. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Women in Moray will continue to travel to give birth in either Aberdeen or Inverness for at least another two years unless immediate changes are implemented. That's despite the independent report identifying this model as unsafe.

Moray's MP Douglas Ross, who also spoke with the Health Secretary on Monday, said that this is unacceptable and has called for action.

Mr Ross said: "I was very disappointed that NHS Grampian in particular ignored many of the questions raised in the meeting about why we have been in this situation for so long in Moray and why previous concerns about the safety of the current model have not been acted on.

"It's vital we ensure that decisions are taken quickly with clear timeframes and milestones set. We all remember being told the temporary downgrade of the maternity unit would be for twelve months, but three-and-a-half years later we are no further on."

Douglas Ross, Party Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, welcomed meeting Mr Yousaf but called for clear targets to be set. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Douglas Ross, Party Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, welcomed meeting Mr Yousaf but called for clear targets to be set. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Mr Yousaf has committed to providing further clarity on timescales and possible approaches in the new year.

MSP Richard Lochhead added: "It is important that the Scottish Government engages with the local community before setting out the next steps.

"I felt the meetings were fairly positive and gave staff and community representatives the opportunity to share their views on the current situation and the way forward.

"The focus now must be on timescales for restoring services, how plans can be delivered and holding NHS Grampian's feet to the fire to ensure that families in Moray can once again access the care they need locally."

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead welcomed the "positive" meeting and agreed with his political rival regarding timescales. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead welcomed the "positive" meeting and agreed with his political rival regarding timescales. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

NHS Grampian reaffirmed their commitment to working on improving maternity services in Moray after the meeting on Monday.

A statement from NHS Grampian read: "We welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Cabinet Secretary on Monday and look forward to working with the Scottish Government and local stakeholders on the future of maternity services in Moray."



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