TWO options for the future of maternity services in Wigtownshire are to go out to consultation – but both will only cater for low risk births.
Going forward, it means there won’t be birthing facilities available to all of the area’s expectant mothers, with anyone deemed high risk sent to Dumfries instead.
Health officials this week stressed they are “exploring birthing options” for the low risk pregnant population in Wigtownshire.
They will be seeking views on the current arrangement, which provides only for low-risk home births; and a second option which would include pre-planned births at Galloway Community Hospital, again only for the same relatively small number of low-risk births.
The choices are the outcome of a review led by two independent chairs and a national midwifery expert.
The situation was discussed at the Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care IJB meeting on Wednesday.
Chairman Andy McFarlane said: “It’s well reported that hospital-based birthing services in Wigtownshire were halted in 2018 as a result of shortfalls in the number of qualified midwives required to ensure the safety of mothers and their babies.
“As a board, we have recognised strong feelings on this issue, particularly around the current travelling required for many births, and a local desire to establish a way forward.
“Several options were developed by the independent chairs following engagement with stakeholders, and these went through a scoring process. At the end of that scoring, the two front-running options for births in the area were tied.”
Mr McFarlane stressed that the service review included contributions and views from professional NHS staff, patients and the public.
And he revealed that option two, using the Galloway Community Hospital, was “narrowly preferred”by the independent chairs.
He added: “Feeling there was a lack of a decisive outcome, and with no proposals or options having yet been taken out for the public to consider, a recommendation was agreed that two options be taken out for formal consultation. The perspectives people offer in response can help inform and shape the ultimate decision making.
“For the avoidance of doubt, and contrary to some reporting, neither of these options would represent a full birthing service in Wigtownshire. High risk births have always been advised to deliver in the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary and this would remain the advice.
“The second option is for pre-planned births in hospital which are assessed as being low-risk – and the last statistics for Wigtownshire showed that this was 23 per cent of all pregnancies in the area.”
A consultation will be rolled out as quickly as possible and the chairman said: “The IJB does not have a preferred outcome here, and we are keen that consultation takes place so that everyone within the community can help shape a model for childbirth that will serve Wigtownshire for years to come.”
Meanwhile, Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson, pictured, is urging Scottish Health Minister Jenni Minto to intervene and accelerate the reopening of the Clenoch Birth Centre in Stranraer as a matter of urgency.
Speaking in a debate at Holyrood last week, he also criticised moves by the Scottish Government to downgrade or even remove altogether maternity and neonatal services across Scotland, including in Galloway.
Mr Carson said mothers-to-be have no choice other than to travel to Dumfries in order to give birth and added: “It has become a reality with pregnant women recorded as having to give birth in lay-bys stretched along the A75.
“We simply cannot continue to have the situation where, as one new mum said, she had travelled about 7500 miles during her pregnancy to get maternity care.”
The MSP insisted that mothers-to-be locally are being denied a choice of where they can give birth, saying: “Whether it be in Dumfries, in Stranraer, or at home – they have the right to make that decision – and not dictated to because of flawed management decisions related to workforce or downgrading maternity or neonatal services.”
Citing the case to reinstate the midwife-led Clenoch Birth Centre, he praised a public campaign led by mothers, elected members and the Galloway Community Hospital Action Group.