CONSULTATION on the future of Maternity Services in Wigtownshire is set to begin, after two options were presented to Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care IJB today.
However, seeking to clarify expectations, the IJB notes that neither of the two options means birthing facilities will be available to all expectant mothers in the area – instead exploring birthing options for the low risk pregnant population in the Wigtownshire area.
Chairman of the IJB Andy McFarlane said: “It’s well reported that hospital-based birthing services in Wigtownshire were halted in 2018 as a result of shortfalls in the number of qualified midwives required to ensure the safety of mothers and their babies.
“As a Board, we have recognised strong feelings on this issue, particularly around the current travelling required for many births, and a local desire to establish a way forward.
“Earlier this year, under two independent chairs and a national midwifery expert, engagement took place with people in the community and with staff in order to gain information to help shape potential options for the future of services.
“Several options were developed by the independent chairs following engagement with stakeholders, and these went through a scoring process.
“At the end of that scoring, two front-running options for births in the area were tied – the current arrangement which provides only for low-risk home births and a second option which would include pre-planned births at Galloway Community Hospital, again only for the same relatively small number of low-risk births.
“While conscious that this was an independently chaired service review, it is important to recognise that this was a local service review which should include contributions and views from professional NHS staff. By doing so, it was noted that both option 1 and 2 scored the same on the day, with option 2 narrowly preferred by the independent chairs when the local professional scores were excluded.”
The report by the independent chairs, NHS Ayrshire and Arran Medical Director Crawford McGuffie and NHS Ayrshire and Arran Executive Nurse Director Jennifer Wilson, came to the Transformation sub-committee of the IJB on August 10 2023.
Mr McFarlane said: “The two options were discussed at that committee. Feeling there was a lack of a decisive outcome, and with no proposals or options having yet been taken out for the public to consider, a recommendation was agreed that two options be taken out for formal consultation.
“This proposal was agreed at the meeting of the IJB on Wednesday 27 September, with a view that these possible options should go out to consultation so that the perspectives people offer in response can help inform and shape the ultimate decision making.
“For the avoidance of doubt, and contrary to some reporting, neither of these options would represent a full birthing service in Wigtownshire. High risk births have always been advised to deliver in the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary and this would remain the advice.
“The second option is for pre-planned births in hospital which are assessed as being low-risk – and the last statistics for Wigtownshire showed that this was 23 per cent of all pregnancies in the area.
“We’ll be looking to move to consultation as quickly as possible, and expecting this process to provide everyone with full information and understanding about both these options, and their implications – with details to be published in due course.
“The IJB does not have a preferred outcome here, and we are keen that consultation takes place so that everyone within the community can help shape a model for childbirth that will serve Wigtownshire for years to come.”