Campaigners in Caithness have had their first face-to-face talks with Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf to discuss gaps in the local maternity service.
It was downgraded six years ago to a midwife-led facility.
More than 90 percent of mums in the area currently endure 100-mile trips to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to give birth.
In an hour-long discussion at a Wick hotel, the Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) pressure group pressed for a review similar to that carried out in Moray.
Chat chairman Ron Gunn was upbeat after the debate.
He said: “He listened to all our concerns including maternity issues and many other matters that we raised with him. He’s going to go away and look into a lot of things.
“When we asked about an independent inquiry he didn’t dismiss it completely. He said he’d look into the possibility of an inquiry.
“He does feel that there should be some kind of inquiry.”
Mr Yousaf was pleased to have had discussions with both Chat and a separate meeting with the North Highland Women’s Wellbeing Hub in Caithness.
He said: “I have every sympathy with the position of the women I met with today and will do everything we can to help.
“Clearly, the key priority is that the care provided to mothers and babies is as safe as possible.”
He said it was imperative for him to hear directly from those most affected.
He added: “I’m grateful to have had the chance to hear the work that both groups are doing.”
The health secretary said a “Best Start North” review commissioned by health boards in the Highlands, Grampian and the islands looked to reassess resources, constraints, challenges and opportunities for maternity and neonatal services.
After a pause due to the pandemic, he said that the review had resumed and he was keen to see it progressed “as soon as possible”.