Preg­nant mums face 100-mile hos­pi­tal trip

Ex­clu­sive: Ma­ter­nity shake-up probed

The Press and Journal (Highlands & Islands) - - Front Page - BY CALUM ROSS

NEW fig­ures have re­vealed that 80% of preg­nant mums from Caith­ness are now hav­ing to travel 100 miles to In­ver­ness to give birth.

Just one-in-five ex­pec­tant moth­ers from the area are able to have their baby lo­cally af­ter con­tro­ver­sial re­stric­tions were in­tro­duced by High­land health chiefs.

The data for last year emerged amid anger at an im­mi­nent “down­grad­ing” of ma­ter­nity ser­vices in Caith­ness.

Cam­paign­ers claimed last night that the long jour­ney to the High­land cap­i­tal was putting the health of women and their ba­bies at risk.

But NHS High­land in­sisted the changes were in­tro­duced to im­prove the safety of pa­tients fol­low­ing a re­view into the “po­ten­tially avoid­able" death of a baby girl at Wick’s hos­pi­tal in 2015.

Only one in five ex­pec­tant moth­ers were able to give birth in the north High­lands last year – with 80% sent on a 100-mile trip to In­ver­ness.

New fig­ures re­veal a huge drop in the num­ber of women hav­ing their ba­bies in Caith­ness fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of con­tro­ver­sial re­stric­tions.

In pre­vi­ous years, about two-thirds of mums in the re­gion were able give birth at Caith­ness Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in Wick.

But in 2015, NHS High­land low­ered the thresh­old for send­ing ex­pec­tant moth­ers to Raig­more Hos­pi­tal af­ter the “po­ten­tially avoid­able” death of a baby girl from the e.coli sep­sis in­fec­tion just40hour­safter be­ing born in Wick.

A re­view into the case has paved the way for a con­tin­u­a­tion of the re­stric­tions – branded a “down­grade” by cam­paign­ers – with ma­ter­nity ser­vices at Wick to be of­fi­cially changed within weeks from con­sul­tant-led to be­ing run by mid­wives.

The shake-up has been ques­tioned af­ter a se­ries of alarm­ing cases emerged in re­cent months as more and more mums had to make the 100-mile jour­ney from Caith­ness to In­ver­ness.

Fig­ures ob­tained from NHS High­land by cam­paign group Caith­ness Health Ac­tion Team (Chat) havenowre­vealed justhow many moth­ers are hav­ing to travel to Raig­more.

Be­tween Jan­uary and

“I think that this sit­u­a­tion is dif­fi­cult for peo­ple here to swal­low”

Novem­ber last year, 156 mums from Caith­ness had their ba­bies in In­ver­ness, in­clud­ing al­most all first­time moth­ers, com­pared to just 37 who gave birth in Wick.

The fig­ures com­pare to 162 births at Caith­ness Gen­eral out of a to­tal from the area of 264 in 2014-15, as well as 161 out of 254 in 2013-14, and 182 out of 275 in 2012-13.

Chat sec­re­tary Ni­cola Sin­clair said: “It’s very dis­ap­point­ing be­cause there’s the ad­di­tional in­con­ve­nience, at a par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant and vul­ner­a­ble time of your life, to be sent 100 miles away from fam­ily and net­works.

“There’s the prac­ti­cal in­con­ve­nience be­cause of trans­portan­dac­com­mo­da­tion, but most im­por­tantly there’s the in­creased phys­i­cal risk.

“Cases such as Eilidh McIn­tosh show that the in­fra­struc­ture isn’t cop­ing.”

Lo­cal coun­cil­lor Bill Fernie, who is chair­man of Chat, added: “Way back for decades and decades we’ve al­ways man­aged to give birth in Caith­ness, but now we’ve moved to a sit­u­a­tion where that is not the case for most peo­ple.

“I think that is re­ally dif­fi­cult for peo­ple here to swal­low.”

The fig­ures emerged the day af­ter the health board an­nounced that it was fast­track­ing the move to a midwife-led ma­ter­nity unit in Caith­ness, with mid­wives to be on- call overnight from Jan­uary 30.

An NHS High­land spokesman said: “The re­duc­tion in birth num­bers is due to the change in clin­i­cal cri­te­ria for lo­cal birth, which is based on sup­port­ing the safest out­come for women and ba­bies.

“Through­out 2016 and while await­ing out­come of the Public Health Re­view, the Caith­ness unit has been work­ing to the same clin­i­cal cri­te­ria and risk as­sess­ment as that of a mid­wifeled Com­mu­nity Ma­ter­nity Unit (CMU), in ad­di­tion to this all first time moth­ers have been ad­vised to give birth in Raig­more Ma­ter­nity.

“The lat­ter has since been re­viewed and in line with other CMUs, low risk first time moth­ers will fit the cri­te­ria for lo­cal birth in Hen­der­son Wing, this will be in place fol­low­ing tran­si­tion to CMU at the end of March.”

High­lands and Is­lands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said ma­ter­nity ser­vices needed to im­proved last night.

“The change to a midwife led ma­ter­nity unit was an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion for all con­cerned,” she said.

“How­ever, every­one agrees that the ser­vice has to be as safe as pos­si­ble for mother and child and it must also be cen­tred around the needs of mums and their fam­i­lies.

“It is dif­fi­cult for a non­med­i­cal per­son to in­ter­pret the fig­ures as there could be many fac­tors in­volved.

“How­ever they high­light the need for more fa­cil­i­ties in In­ver­ness for Caith­ness moth­ers.

“For ex­am­ple, free ac­com­mo­da­tion around Raig­more for them, their part­ners and fam­i­lies given the dis­tance from home.”

NUM­BERS: Fewer ba­bies are born in Caith­ness Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in Wick as mums are sent to Raig­more

CAT­A­LOGUE OF ER­RORS: Eilidh McIn­tosh with her daugh­ter Skye, who was born in an am­bu­lance dur­ing a dash from Wick to In­ver­ness

Emma Ed­wards of Wick with her daugh­ter Kar­men

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