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Public Anxiety Over Highland Maternity Services Review

26th September 2000

The public anxiety surrounding the effects of the review of maternity services in Highland have given us the impetus to make information on the issue easily available. If anyone would like to forward information for inclusion in this section please get in touch with us at 01955 604648 or email .

Following a review nearly three years ago fears were allayed about possible down grading of the services at the Caithness General Hospital. The matter is again to be looked at and the maternity services review committee will start its work shortly. The committee is to be chaired by Monica Mouat from Highland Health Council.

There is a feeling from the Health side that the public disquiet is somewhat premature as the committee has not even started its work. However there is considerable local fear that the current financial problems of the NHS trusts may have some bearing on the eventual outcome.

A local committee to fight closure (which is not suggested as an option) or down grading to midwife only service, has been formed and is led by local councillors. There has been a series of stories running in the local and other Highland papers. The John O'Groat journal devoted its whole front page to the matter last week. Letters from members of the public expressing their fears about the long journey to Inverness (100 - 140 miles) 3 to 4 hours by road. Also letters from mothers who have experienced problems with childbirth and the possible consequences if expert medical treatment had not been available locally. This issue is growing in the public mind and is a wide spread topic of discussion in many quarters. A petition has been in shops and offices for the last two weeks. The committee were out on the streets of Caithness getting signatures on Saturday.

The Caithness Courier again has it as its front page story. Last week the John O'Groat Journal and the Press & Journal ran stories revealing a secret cost cutting plan to try and tackle the Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. the maternity unit was specifically mentioned as being inefficient and recommended the relocation of specialist staff to Inverness. The inefficiency comes not from any short comings of the staff but from the low birth rate in recent years in Caithness. The fact is that people of child bearing age are leaving the area and many reports point to demographic changes in the age structure of the population due in part to economic factors.

More stories are coming forward almost daily of the problems women have had in the past which would not have been coped with if they had had to go to Inverness. Everyone is waiting for developments or statements but to date no assurances about the services have been given by either the Trust or the Health Board.

If anyone has information or would like to say what they think on the matter the Message Board already has a section to use. Any significant details will be transferred to these pages over the coming months.

[This article has been transferred here from our archives]


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