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Edward Mountain: It's unfair to ignore hazards faced by Caithness mums

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Holyrood Notebook by Edward Mountain

There is no sign of a return to a consultant-led maternity service in Caithness.
There is no sign of a return to a consultant-led maternity service in Caithness.

Communities in the far north will have undoubtedly been reading the Independent Review of Moray Maternity Services with great interest.

Indeed, the heartache experienced by Moray mums who face a trip to either Inverness or Aberdeen to deliver their child mirrors the anxieties felt by Caithness mums too.

I was therefore disappointed that one of the preferred options in this review was for Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin to have a midwife-led service.

As we have seen in the far north, the lack of a consultant-led maternity model at Caithness General has seen fewer babies being delivered in the region and more pregnant women having to make the long and gruelling journey to Inverness instead.

This is far from ideal in Caithness and I do not believe a similar approach in Moray is the way forward either.

I made this clear to the SNP health secretary when he made his statement to the Scottish Parliament on the future of Moray maternity services.

While the health secretary continues to promise the return of a consultant-led maternity service to Elgin, he remains unwilling to make the same promise to the people of Caithness.

This is grossly unfair. If the hazards faced by expectant Moray mums can be recognised by this SNP government, how can it turn a blind eye to the similar hazards faced by Caithness mums?

I firmly believe that the Scottish Government’s position on this matter is unsustainable and, rest assured, I will continue to campaign for a complete review of maternity service provision in Caithness.

We need to see real change which ensures that healthcare is more localised across the Highlands.

This is also the case when it comes to rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine too.

At a time when the emergence of the Omicron variant has seen social distancing and other restrictions return, it is vital that people can access a third dose of the vaccine as swiftly and locally as possible.

However, that is not happening. I am contacted daily by constituents unable to secure a vaccine appointment and, for those who have secured an appointment, I am aware that some are being asked to travel as far south as Fort William to receive their jab.

This situation arose because NHS Highland failed to properly fund and resource local GPs to rollout the booster jabs and, as a result, around 40 per cent of Highland GPs have opted out of the programme.

Yet again this proves why the GP contract, which transferred the delivery of vaccine programmes from GPs to health boards, was the wrong move. It might work in Glasgow, but it is unsuitable for the Highlands.

Now that the booster programme is being accelerated, we need to see NHS Highland correctly support and resource GPs so that they have the capacity to repeat their excellent work during the initial vaccine rollout.

Christmas is a time of hope and there are encouraging signs that a third dose of the vaccine will increase our protection against the new variant.

I would therefore encourage everyone to take up their offer of an appointment. The more we vaccinate, the quicker we can return to a sense of normality again.

I wish all readers of the Caithness Courier and John O’Groat Journal a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

MSP Edward Mountain.
MSP Edward Mountain.
  • Edward Mountain is a Highlands and Islands list MSP for the Scottish Conservatives.

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