Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today written to the First Minister to demand a progress update on previous government assurances on the capacity of maternity facilities at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness.
At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Rennie raised the case of Emma Moffat, 28, who had to undertake a 520 mile round trip to give birth in Livingston, as there were no cots available in Raigmore Hospital.
However, while the First Minister commented on safety concerns which had seen maternity services in the far north transferred to Inverness, she was unable to justify the trip to Livingston that Ms Moffat endured.
After previous concerns over maternity facilities were raised, the Health Secretary told the Scottish Parliament on 17 January 2017 that she would ensure “not just the safe transfer of women and other patients, but that Raigmore—the receiving hospital—has high-quality facilities available for the patients and their families.”
Commenting on the letter, Mr Rennie said:
“Myself and my colleagues have raised concerns over lack of capacity for new mothers in the Far North for some time. In January 2017, the Health Secretary told the Scottish Parliament that she would ensure that high-quality facilities were available for the patients and their families. Emma Moffat had to travel 500 miles, how many more women will be expected to do that?
“For months medical bodies, NHS staff and opposition parties have been raising staff shortages, financial mismanagement and tragic failures in mental health and emergency care. Even SNP backbenchers have spoken out.
“Our NHS staff are doing a fantastic job but they can no longer look to the Health Secretary for leadership. She has made promises to patients and staff and then failed to deliver.
“The First Minister must now accept that change is needed at the top and if the Health Secretary is not prepared to do the right thing, then the First Minister must take action.”
Mr Rennie's letter to the First Minister says:
Dear First Minister,
We discussed the case of Emma Moffat at First Minister’s Questions.
She stays in Caithness but had to undertake a 520 mile round trip to give birth in Livingston, as there were no cots available in Raigmore Hospital.
I asked you how six hours of travel can be considered safe a new mother and her baby.
You didn’t answer that point in our exchanges.
I want to make a further point to you. Concerns about the downgrading of Caithness General Hospital’s maternity service have been raised before. Protests have been brushed off with bland assurances by the Health Secretary. On 17 January 2017 Shona Robison that she would ensure “not just the safe transfer of women and other patients, but that Raigmore—the receiving hospital—has high-quality facilities available for the patients and their families.”
This commitment and assurance was clearly not met for Emma Moffat.
I believe that the Scottish Government has endorsed a model of healthcare that does not serve the far north of Scotland. Ministers have failed to add the capacity and safeguards necessary.
There have been reports of expectant mothers being sent to Aberdeen and Edinburgh as well as Livingston.
The comments from health campaigners in the far north that local people are thinking about not having children in the area, shows that the Scottish Government is failing to honour its intentions for inclusive growth that benefits every region of the country.
It is time that Scottish ministers took action to provide a better model of health service in remote and rural areas. If not, the long journey taken by Emma Moffat will not be the last example of failure.