Mothers campaigning to restore maternity services in Moray have sent the new health secretary a wish list.
They have urged the new-look Scottish Government to help NHS Grampian health chiefs pave the way by ensuring the necessary jobs, homes and public services are in place.
Maternity services in Moray were downgraded in 2018 due to staff shortages at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin.
Since then, most Moray babies have been born in Aberdeen.
Kirsty Watson of campaign group Keep Mum told STV News: “I think about 75% of Moray women are travelling just now, the vast majority to Aberdeen, which is roughly about two hours from most places in Moray.
“So, it’s really quite shocking. And what’s more shocking is that won’t change for quite a few years even if this plan properly comes to fruition.”
She added: “We’ve had some positive discussions. We’ve got some local people that are helping with some campaigns on how we can look at proactive different ways to get people to see the benefits of coming to Moray.
“So I think, again, we are positive but there are definitely concerns, there.”
The campaigners have urged new health secretary Michael Matheson to ensure an influx of new trainee doctors, offer incentives to recruit staff, recruit internationally if necessary, guarantee housing and childcare for new staff, and to ensure stability for Dr Gray’s.
First Minister Humza Yousaf confirmed last month, while still health secretary, that a full, consultant-led maternity service for Moray would be restored by 2026.
A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said: “We are working hard, pulling together an exciting, innovative and far reaching recruitment campaign, targeting the roles needed and promoting the wonderful lifestyle and career opportunities here in Moray.”
In a statement, the Scottish Government said: “Safe maternity care as close to home as practicable is vital.
“We recognise the challenges facing remote and rural health boards, and work is ongoing to ensure services are developed in a flexible and sustainable way recognising local population needs and geographic challenges.
“We are committed to NHS Grampian’s plan to enhance maternity services in the north of Scotland, including the return of consultant-led maternity services to Dr Gray’s.
“That’s why we confirmed funding of £6.6m to help restore consultant-led obstetric care at Dr Gray’s Hospital.“