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Scottish Government review will look at maternity care in Caithness

By Gordon Calder

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MATERNITY care in Caithness and other rural areas of Scotland is being looked at by the Scottish Government.

It confirmed that transfer arrangements for pregnant woman who have to travel over 100 miles to give birth are being assessed as part of a review.

The news comes after a petition was lodged by the Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) calling on the Scottish Government to review maternity care in rural areas. The petition – lodged by Chat secretary Maria Aitken – was backed in the Scottish Parliament and described as "really important" by Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "It is essential women in Scotland, including those in more remote and rural areas, receive a safe, high-quality service from our National Health Service. The decision by NHS Highland to change the Caithness Maternity Unit to a midwifery unit was made on the grounds of safety, informed by a review they commissioned after the tragic death of an child in September 2015."

She added: "As part of the Best Start review of maternity and neonatal services, discussions are ongoing with regards to changes in rural service provision and arrangements for obstetric transfers across Scotland.

"In addition, we have convened a transport expert group to examine the transfer of pregnant women and newborn babies, which is currently developing an in-utero transfer (IUT) risk assessment tool to assist clinicians in their decision to transfer pregnant woman who are threatened with pre-term labour. Specific consideration is also being given to the pathways and protocols for remote and rural transfer across the whole of Scotland."

Speaking before the Public Petitions Committee last week, Mrs Grant highlighted the plight of many Caithness mothers who have to travel to hospital in Inverness to give birth.

She pointed out that mothers and babies who are assessed as needing obstetric or neonatal care are transferred to Raigmore Hospital in the Highland capital.

The committee unanimously agreed to back the petition and ask the Scottish Government what progress has been made on several initiatives which look at solutions for rural areas.

Chat chairman, Bill Fernie, is pleased the petition has been supported in the Scottish Parliament and said other parts of the country, such as the Borders, face similar maternity problems.

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