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Risk assessment call on transport of Caithness mothers who give birth in Inverness

By Gordon Calder

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A CALL has been made for a full risk assessment to be undertaken on the transport of pregnant women from Caithness to Raigmore hospital in Inverness.

It came from Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, after she received an edited version of an investigation into the birth of twin babies, which were born 50 miles apart earlier this year.

Mrs Grant raised the issue in the Scottish parliament in February with First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and asked her why the air ambulance was not called initially when the woman went into labour at 30 weeks.

Rhoda Grant wants risk assessment on Caithness mothers transported to Inverness to give birth
Rhoda Grant wants risk assessment on Caithness mothers transported to Inverness to give birth

The north MSP has now received a precis of the review of the case from the new NHS Highland chief executive, Iain Stewart.

But Mrs Grant is not reassured and wonders why the Specialist Transport and Retrieval (SCOTSTAR) team – a national service that provides safe transfer for some of the sickest patients within NHS Scotland – was not called in. The clinical teams transport patients, from babies through to children and adults by road and air. The expert teams include doctors, nurses and paramedics.

"There are many questions unanswered in this edited version of the review and, while I see the need for patient confidentiality, it does not give me confidence that a similar incident will not happen again. There must be a full risk assessment carried out on what transport can be used and when and what craft is suitable for airlift in emergencies with pregnant women.”

In his letter, Mr Stewart stresses the care teams involved in the birth "behaved appropriately and professionally and that the proper procedures were followed in the best interests of the mother and her babies".

Mrs Grant said: "I must congratulate all the staff working on the front-line in this case. They had a difficult job and did their very best for the mother and her babies."

Previously, at First Minister’s Questions, Mrs Grant explained what happened to the woman who has not been identified.

After going to Caithness General Hospital, she was told she would have to go to Inverness by road ambulance, over a 100 miles away and two-and-half-hour drive

Mrs Grant said: "Half way into that journey they had to stop at a community hospital at Golspie when the first twin was born breech.

"The air ambulance was then tasked but because it would take two hours to arrive the first twin would be sent by road to Inverness. The helicopter could not land, another air ambulance was tasked but this would take too long therefore a second ambulance resumed the journey to Inverness where the second twin was born.

"Thankfully after prolonged stay in hospital all are now doing well. However, it begs the question why was the air ambulance or emergency retrieval team not tasked initially airlifting the mum from Caithness."

Mrs Grant asked the First Minister to investigate make sure the air ambulance "treats situations like this as a priority."

Ms Sturgeon promised to investigate and asked the Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, to look into the matter.

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