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26 December 2006

MSP Takes Fight To Save Maternity Units To Skye - Press & Journal

by Andrew Kellock, Press & Journal

The fight to save three north-east maternity units is to be taken to the Highlands.

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will visit the birthing centre at Broadford on Skye on a fact-finding mission.

He hopes to gather information which will help strengthen the case for keeping open delivery rooms at Fraserburgh, Banff and Aboyne.

In April, NHS Grampian backed proposals to shut them.

But earlier this month, Health Minister Andy Kerr ordered a review of the closures scheme.

He wants the health board to investigate whether or not there is scope for providing birth units for low-risk mothers, "along the lines of models already in place in other parts of rural Scotland".

SNP MSP Mr Stevenson has played a key role in the battle to save the threatened north-east maternities, and he arranged a meeting between campaigners from the Broch and Mr Kerr.

He said: "The minister for health, in his response to NHS Grampian, sent a clear message that he wanted to see maternity services in some shape or form continue in Fraserburgh and Banff, as well as Aboyne.

"That is absolutely right, and was a tremendous rebuff for the health board's plans, which have been dogged by controversy and badly mishandled from the outset.

"The type of birth units which the minister referred to have been working very successfully in the NHS Highland area for some years now.

"I have therefore arranged with NHS Highland to go on a fact-finding mission to visit one of their units and to see for myself what lessons we can learn from them.

"I feel that this will provide some important ammunition in the fight against NHS Grampian, who will no doubt be keen to rubbish the idea as unworkable when in actual fact it has been working well in the neighbouring health authority for years."

After 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 delivery ward at Peterhead Hospital but setting it targets, were backed by the NHS Grampian board.

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

Mr Kerr has asked the board members to submit their review of the maternity proposals to him by the end of January.

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