NHS HIGHLAND has denied using the deaths of five babies as a ploy to rush through its plan to downgrade the maternity service in the far north. One of its senior medical staff maintains the health board used the fatalities to allow it to avoid public scrutiny of its move to axe three consultants and put midwives in charge of the baby unit of Caithness General.
Raigmore-based James Bingham also claims his serious misgivings had not being given enough attention and that the board had wrongly stated in January of last year that there had been no clinical opposition to the change. last week.
Dr Bingham said the people of Caithness have been “very badly served” by the way the board ushered in the major change in the service.
While opposed to the downgrading, the obstretrician agreed with his Raigmore colleagues that the previous arrangements at the Wick unit were “not sustainable”.
However, he added: “I was not convinced by the board’s arguments that the proposed change in November/ December 2016 was justified on grounds of safety.
Dr Roderick Harvey, NHS Highland’s medical director however said Dr Bingham’s view were at odds with that of the other experts who contributed to the review of safety at the Wick baby unit.
He said the change was agreed in September 2015 as an interim measure on safety grounds following the death of a baby from sepsis, pending more detailed review.
He said: “While Dr Bingham is obviously entitled to his view, he is simply incorrect that safety and the death of five individual infants was used as a pretext to avoid wider consultation on the decision to reconfigure the unit.
“It is important to note also that this was not a rushed ‘cliff edge’ transition as has been suggested by Dr Bingham, as the unit had effectively been operating under restrictions equivalent to a community midwife unit for over a year at that time.”