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Friday, 3 August, 2001, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
Reprieve for Highland baby unit
Caithness general hospital
The future of the unit had been in some doubt
One of Scotland's smallest maternity units has been saved from closure.

A review of maternity services for Highland Health Board has recommended maintaining the service at Wick's Caithness General Hospital.

The decision follows a vociferous campaign the unit, which serves communities along the north coast.

The unit has a delivery rate of five babies per week and a Highland wide review group considered its future.

There were concerns about the maintenance of obstetric skills because of the delivery rate.

We have a great maternity story to tell in the Highlands

Brian Devlin, Health Board

Mothers-to-be faced the prospect of having to travel over 100 miles to have their babies in Inverness if the unit closed.

Campaigners warned that lives would be put at risk if that happened - particularly in the winter months.

But following a wide-ranging consultation process the health board's review group has recommended retaining and enhancing the obstetric service in Caithness.

Local GP Allison Brooks told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that closure would have resulted in maternal deaths.

She said: "We have just had the most horrendous winter with blocked roads and certainly no way of transporting patients to Inverness and certainly in that situation there would be maternal deaths."

Councillor Deirdre Steven said the review echoed the sentiments of mothers in the north who felt the unit was vital to their community.

Maternity nurse
The maternity unit is vital to the rural community

"The findings of the review support the feelings of mothers in the north that we had to retain our consultants.

"Also I feel that due recognition has been given to the unique problems faced in rural areas in relation to distance and safety."

Highland Health Board has said midwives will have a key role to play in maintaining and raising the standard of service available to mothers-to-be in the Highlands.

The board's Brian Devlin said: "The professionals that are best placed to manage the care of most women's pregnancies are midwives.

"That is generally accepted throughout Scotland and what we want to have is more training and more support to build up the excellent service that is already going on in the Highlands.

"We have a great maternity story to tell in the Highlands."

Jackie O'Brien reports
"The local health authority had decided to review the service"
See also:

26 Sep 00 | Scotland
Attempt to halt ward closures
31 Jul 00 | Scotland
Maternity unit breaks ground
28 Mar 00 | Scotland
Units switch sites in health move
13 Nov 99 | Scotland
Maternity care shake-up call
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