Home   News   Article

New SNP leader Humza Yousaf urged to upgrade maternity services in the Highlands

By Federica Stefani

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Jamie Stone MP is calling for new SNP leader Humza Yousaf to review women's healthcare in the Far North.
Jamie Stone MP is calling for new SNP leader Humza Yousaf to review women's healthcare in the Far North.

THE NEWLY elected SNP leader and health secretary Humza Yousaf is being urged to review maternity services in the north of Scotland.

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP, Jamie Stone, has written a letter to Mr Yousaf calling on the Scottish Government to upgrade women's health services in the Highlands and in particular in Caithness as women need to face a journey deemed "too long, too dangerous, and too unpredictable", according to the MP.

Mr Stone raised that women based in Wick have to make a more-than-200-mile roundtrip to access specialised healthcare such as antenatal care, giving birth, and receiving diagnoses and treatment for illnesses such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

The calls to upgrade women's health services have intensified following the news that the Scottish Government has given £6.6 million to Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin for this purpose.

Speaking at the Inverness Courier Leadership Debate, Mr Yousaf admitted he wouldn't want his wife to have to travel the two hour-plus journey the vast majority of Caithness mums-to-be have to endure when they are in labour.

Only eight babies were born at the community midwifery unit at Caithness General Hospital during last year, compared to 202 Caithness mums who gave birth at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

The journey between the two hospitals is 104 miles on a road that is often affected by bad weather or accidents, with long detours if the road is closed.

Mr Yousaf said: "I know the statistics, and that’s why we’ve got a review of Caithness services. It’s not ideal.

"My promise and commitment to them is that first and foremost they and their families’ safety and the safety of their unborn child is paramount.

"The issue in Caithness happened because of the tragedy of a mother in Caithness losing her child, and therefore if we were to allow births to take place in Caithness we would be putting people at risk because we don’t have the workforce there."

He added that that as First Minister he would focus on improving background factors stopping consultants working in rural areas.

He said: "First and foremost, in any decision about Caithness and about Dr Gray's, the woman and the unborn children are our priority.

"If we could have a consultant led service tomorrow, there is nobody in government that would deny that.

"So what is stopping the workforce?

"One of the plans I have, for example, is putting £25 million towards being able to buy empty properties to put them back into social housing for key workers.

"We will do everything in our gift to try to get the workforce there."

Mr Stone said: "Women in the Far North have just as much a right to accessible healthcare as anybody else in the United Kingdom, and yet the Scottish Government has historically stripped them of this right by neglecting local health services.

"1 in 10 women have endometriosis and are living in a great deal of pain. Illnesses like endometriosis and PCOS can also lead to infertility and yet there are many women who may be suffering without a diagnosis because of how inaccessible women's healthcare services are.

"Expectant mothers are having to travel hundreds of miles to give birth in often treacherous weather on often dangerous roads, risking their and their baby's lives every time they need to visit a doctor.

"The Scottish Government and Far North MSPs have failed Highland women. I hope with all my being that as First Minister, Humza Yousaf will set aside chasing independence with the blind ambition we have seen up until now, and instead focus on delivering for the Scottish people in ways that they truly need. Re-instating consultant-led maternity services, or replicating the 'Orkney Maternity Model' in Caithness, would be a good place to start."

Kirsteen Campbell, chair for North Highland Women's Wellness Hub, commented: “We welcome Jamie’s continued support. Caithness women desperately need the Government to look at this situation more seriously. Before a woman pays the ultimate price.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More