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Closures of Maternity Units across Grampian Arouses Concern

After the board of NHS Grampian voted for the closure of maternity services at four rural hospitals in the area, fears for expectant mothers and their unborn babies have been raised.//

Following this decision the North-east will be left with only three fully dedicated maternity units at Peterhead, Aberdeen and Elgin.

Expectant mothers in the remote Strathdon and Braemar areas would have to travel for up to 60 miles to Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

The decision to end the community-based service for delivering babies at the hospitals in Aberdeenshire has still to be ratified by Andy Kerr, the health minister. It would mean the partial closure of the maternity units at Aboyne, Huntly, Banff, and Fraserburgh, where the only services that will be provided is the provision of pre-natal and post-natal care by midwives.

Besides this some midwives will be redeployed to other parts of the board area to work with pregnant women who are abusing heroin and to help smoking mothers to quit.

MSPs have condemned the decision while mothers in the communities have vowed to fight to have the decision overturned by the Scottish Executive.

Clare Lawson, one of the leaders of the Aboyne maternity unit campaign, said: "We are very disappointed and angry. We think the board has made an ill-informed decision. The fight isn't over. We are taking our case to Andy Kerr and hope to have it raised in parliament."

Ms Lawson called attention to the risks expectant mothers would face in having to travel from remote areas to have their babies delivered in Aberdeen.

She said: "The health board seem to think some of the areas around us are affluent and can therefore be forgotten. But there are an awful lot of people around me in Strathdon who live on benefits and don't have easy access to transport. There are plenty of people here who need their support - other than mothers who are on heroin or mothers who smoke when they are pregnant."

Another member of the action group Kathleen Fraser, said the board's "devastating" decision would remove choice from mothers.

She added: "We are particularly concerned for people in Braemar, Ballater and Strathdon who, in January and February, are going to have to get to Aberdeen Maternity Hospital. And the snow up there at that time of year is incredible so women will be scared about having babies."

However Dr Roelf Dijkhuizen, the medical director of NHS Grampian, has pointed out that these changes were part of a package of measures which would enable improved diagnostic and treatment services in rural areas as well as improved care for the elderly. Besides this the provision of the new rural services could reduce by 18,000 the number of patients needing to travel to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.


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