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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 20:10 GMT
NHS board backs maternity cuts
Caithness General Hospital
The maternity service at Caithness General Hospital could be replaced
Health chiefs have accepted findings of a controversial report recommending the downgrading of maternity services in the far north of Scotland.

The NHS Highland Board agreed with plans to replace the consultant-led service at Caithness General Hospital with a midwife-led one.

Protesters claim lives would be put at risk if the plan is agreed but experts say the service is unsustainable.

An NHS spokesman said the issue would be further considered over the coming months.

'Virtually impossible'

At a stormy public meeting in Wick on Tuesday, one protestor had to be removed by police and young mothers held up posters claiming the report was a sham.

Professor Andrew Calder said in his report that sustaining the unit at the Wick hospital was "virtually impossible" due to upcoming changes in employment law and contractual requirements and because of the scarcity of consultant obstetricians.

He said other maternity units in Scotland were facing similar threats.

But Highland MSP Rob Gibson called for an inquiry into the social, economic and clinical impact downgrading the unit would have on the area.

The Scottish National Party politician said: "There is a real danger this could become a domino effect and more and more services will be downgraded or lost altogether.

"Downgrading could affect the future sustainability and growth of Caithness, therefore it is important research is carried out to assess what impact the downgrading of one service has on the community, in order to safeguard others."

Report queries rural baby units
10 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Fears over north maternity cover
15 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Minister backs maternity changes
20 Oct 03  |  Scotland
Reprieve for Highland baby unit
03 Aug 01  |  Scotland

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