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14 December 2006

MSP Describes As "Bizarre" Moves To Close Maternity Units - Press & Journal

by Andrew Kellock, Press & Journal

A NORTH-east MSP has described NHS Grampian's decision to axe four Aberdeenshire maternity units as "bizarre".

Stewart Stevenson said the health board's decision to recommend the closure of the baby wards at Fraserburgh, Banff, Huntly and Aboyne is "at odds" with the Scottish Executive's own policy on midwifery services.

And he has urged ministers to back calls from campaign groups who have been battling for almost 18 months to keep open rural delivery rooms.

Banff and Buchan MSP Mr Stevenson spoke out at yesterday's meeting of Holyrood's public petitions committee.

Members were debating a plea from Broch maternity action group member Lynne Simpson asking them to put pressure on the executive to "ensure that the quality and access to services are retained locally".

SNP MSP Mr Stevenson visited Fraserburgh Hospital's baby unit shortly after the Press and Journal revealed in summer last year that it was under threat.

He also joined 600 people at a protest march and rally in the Buchan port, and last month he organised a meeting between campaigners from the Broch and Health Minister Andy Kerr, who will have the final say on the future of Aberdeenshire's maternity services.

Mr Stevenson said: "The discussion at the petitions committee was a useful opportunity to once again underline the strong arguments in favour of keeping health services local.

"The policy of NHS Grampian is entirely at odds with stated Government policy.

"This is all the more bizarre when one considers that Fraserburgh is the only town in Scotland with a population of more than 10,000 which is more than one hour away from an acute services hospital.

"The committee has agreed to continue its consideration of this vitally important issue in light of the ministerial decision, which is expected shortly."

Following a public consultation - which was criticised by campaigners as not being wide-ranging enough - the Aberdeenshire Community Health Partnership, which is responsible for organising and providing NHS services in the area, recommended the closure of the Fraserburgh, Aboyne, Banff and Huntly maternity units.

Its proposals, which involve keeping open the ward at Peterhead Hospital but setting it targets, were backed by NHS Grampian's board in April.

Health chiefs insist they are only responding to the falling birth rate and the growing population of elderly people.

to read the original story click on Press & Journal

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