Lack of maternity services in Wigtownshire raised at Scottish Parliament

The lack of maternity services in Wigtownshire has been highlighted at Holyrood.

Finlay Carson questioned the formula being used to fund health boards
Finlay Carson questioned the formula being used to fund health boards

Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson raised the problem facing many mothers because the midwife-led community maternity unit at Galloway Community Hospital remains closed for births.

This echoed previous complaints from Mid Galloway and Wigtown West councillor Jackie McCamon, which saw her raise a motion at this week’s full meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Expectant mums currently face the prospect of a 70-mile trip to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary to give birth, leading Mr Carson to question if the formula used to fund health boards is fit for purpose for rural areas.

Speaking at General Questions, he said: “If the formula is fit for purpose for rural areas, it should address the health inequalities pregnant women in Wigtownshire face in having to travel up to two hours to get to a maternity hospital.

“Will the minister look at that shocking situation and commit to a reassessment of NRAC, specifically for rural and island communities?”

Kevin Stewart, minister for mental wellbeing and social care, conceded the Scottish Government expects all boards to provide maternity services as close to home as possible, including the option of home birth services.

He added: “However that has to be balanced with ensuring the safety of mothers and babies when they need access to hospital maternity and neonatal services.

“I recognise that there are difficulties in recruitment in certain parts of the country. My colleague Maree Todd is working on that. She is taking a close interest in the situation, and I am sure that she will be willing to speak further to ensure that progress is made.”

The minister confirmed the Cabinet Secretary would be willing to look at any proposal that Mr Carson has on NRAC. However, that is the formula that is in place. If Mr Carson is calling for a review, he should write to the cabinet secretary.”

Earlier, the Scottish minister for public health, Maree Todd revealed she would be happy to discuss the maternity difficulties at Stranraer with Councillor Jackie McCamon and representatives from the Galloway Community Hospital Action Group.

It is hoped this invitation will be extended to involve Mr Carson, who had earlier written to the Cabinet Secretary raising concerns over midwifery provision in Wigtownshire.

Mr Carson also asked the Scottish Government how it intended to address the reported shortage of nurses in rural areas.

He said: “Families of patients in one specialist ward have been asked to help out with basics, such as feeding patients.

"There is also a situation where one registered nurse has been left alone in charge of an entire adult mental health ward.

"Can the minister tell me what urgent action he will take to address those issues.”

In his response, Mr Stewart stated it is hoped to develop a remote and rural recruitment strategy by the end of 2024, and a national centre for remote and rural health and social care, which is expected to be operational by spring 2023.