Mum's plea to restore local maternity unit after 40-mile emergency trip

Pregnant mum taken to Inverness by ambulance for blood transfusions backs calls to restore Elgin's 'downgraded' maternity service.

A pregnant woman who needed an emergency transfer from hospital in Elgin to Inverness, 40 miles away, has urged NHS Grampian to recruit more consultants.

It was the latest in a series of scares focussed on the Moray maternity unit which was downgraded five years ago due to a lack of staff.

Before delivering her sixth child Odin last Saturday, Samantha Bray from Lossiemouth experienced high blood-pressure and extensive blood loss requiring transfusions.

The “downgraded” maternity service at Dr Gray’s meant an emergency transfer by ambulance.

Mrs Bray said: “You try to keep on top of the contractions while being strapped to the bed. It was just awful.

“They need to get more consultants and more staff at Dr Gray’s and get it fully opened again so we don’t have to do this any more.”

Her husband Jason added: “Samantha was saying that ‘I will give birth in the ambulance if my waters go’. And it was still, ‘we kind of need you to go to a different hospital for them to deal with this’ because of the high blood pressure.”

Recently appointed Public and Women’s Health Minister Jenni Minto has become the fifth health minister in five years to visit Elgin to offer a reassurance that the overdue restoration of maternity services will happen.

She said: “I have met some of the most caring staff there, that are wanting this to happen and I think that’s incredibly important.

“So, if we have the teams in the hospital wanting this to move forward and progress well, progress safely for the best for the community, then that’s my message, that we have a hospital that’s looking towards that.”

The downgrade forced by a staff shortage was intended to last for a year. Hundreds of families have been impacted.

Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “Most recently we heard the horrific case of a lady that was asked to make her own way through to Aberdeen, was told there was no room for her at Aberdeen and her waters broke in the carpark of the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary having travelled through from Moray to give birth.”

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, who attended the latest discussions, said: “The commitment is there from the Scottish Government. The minister reiterated that today that, by the end of 2026, we’ll have the restoration of a fully consultant-led maternity service at Dr Gray’s in Moray, allowing more women of course to give birth locally which is what we all want to see.”

The debate with local health chiefs and campaigners coincided with the unveiling of an NHS Grampian ‘maternity charter’ that promises “appropriate services, respect and effective care.”

However, not everyone is impressed after the long wait to have services restored.

Kirsty Watson of the Keep Mum Campaign said: “I think the charter is a red herring. It’s explaining how women can have choices giving birth and how they can have a good experience giving birth.

“That’s really hard for Moray women to have just now, so I’m not sure how that charter will make a difference on that.”

Prior to the downgrade, 1,000 babies were born each year in Moray. It’s now 120, with deliveries switched to Aberdeen.

Campaigners say they’re still seeking a proper timetable for a resumption of the service.

NHS Grampian’s charter draws from a national charter of patients’ rights, in collaboration with representatives of community groups, and focusing on development of care for birthing mothers and their families.

The board’s executive lead for family services, Geraldine Fraser, said: “What this charter means is that people using our maternity services have the right to services appropriate to their needs, to be involved in decisions about their care, to expect confidentiality, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to have safe, effective and compassionate care.

“Our aim is to support the whole family including partners, babies, parents, and siblings.”

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