Maternity services are a hugely important part of what we do at NHS Highland

Just 15 babies were born at Caithness General Hospital last year. Photo: Adobe Stock

WE know that giving children the best start in life impacts their health throughout their lives. And of course, having a baby can be both exciting and anxious for parents.

We need to listen to what parents want and offer advice on the best and safest care before, during and after birth.

In the Highland Council area, we have a consultant-led maternity unit at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and community midwifery units in Caithness, Skye and Fort William. Low-risk deliveries can take place in community midwifery units, with our skilled and experienced midwives. It is recommended that those assessed as higher risk take place at Raigmore, where specialist doctors are available, as well as a neonatal unit, if the baby needs it.

Doctor Constantinos Yangou.
Doctor Constantinos Yangou.

You may have heard that a review of maternity services at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin recently recommended that, in a mid-term plan, women in Moray be offered the choice of giving birth at the Raigmore Hospital, while longer-term plans for the return of consultant-led maternity services at Dr Gray’s are being put in place.

Our teams here at NHS Highland are working with colleagues at NHS Grampian and Dr Gray’s Hospital to put plans in place to understand what it would take to make this work in practice. We will also be asking families and those with recent experience of our services to provide feedback, knowing that families’ choices really matter.

As part of this revamp, we will be improving and expanding the Raigmore Maternity. Families will see new rooms with fresher decor and more en-suite bathrooms. Importantly, we will also be recruiting more maternity staff so they can spend more time with new mothers, families and their babies. We will be looking at many opportunities to grow the workforce, including international recruitment where appropriate.

We will also look at how we can improve support for community midwifery units, and in particular how we can increase the potential of midwives to support mothers from booking through delivery and postnatal care, as we know that continuity is important to people. .

Our plans will be submitted to the Scottish Government this summer, with NHS Grampian’s plans for implementing consultant-led care at Dr Gray due to be submitted by the end of the year. Although it is difficult to accurately predict timelines, we aim to complete the necessary building work at Raigmore, recruit new staff over the next two years and begin offering Inverness as a birthplace for Moray mothers shortly. soon after.

In the meantime, our highly trained and dedicated colleagues will continue to deliver high quality care and support mothers and families across the Highlands.

As Covid restrictions are eased, we will consider whether we can start providing more face-to-face care again. We have learned a lot from Covid, and also want to provide services in a way that works for mothers and their families, so where remote or virtual services can be provided more regularly than face-to-face, we will strive to offer this option as well.

We are always looking for better ways to engage with moms and families, as well as maternity and neonatal colleagues, and gather feedback to help improve services. This will help us tailor services to meet needs and expectations as much as possible – both for our local Highland people and, where appropriate, for Moray mothers and Highland visitors. If you would like to share your views on the service, please email nhsh.maternityandneonatal

[email protected]

Dr Constantinos Yiangou is Deputy Medical Director (Acute) at NHS Highland.

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Richard F. Gandhi