Don’t let SWAH maternity go way of Scottish hospital

“DON’T let the SWAH maternity unit go the same way as ours,” is the warning from health campaigners in Scotland.

The Herald recently reported that concerns over the future of the SWAH’s maternity facility after we revealed that several obs and gynae consultants have announced they are planning to leave the hospital, and said locums were also reluctant to cover this rota, as they no longer have support from a general surgeon at the hospital if a procedure goes wrong.

Although a spokesperson for the Western Trust said is was committed to obstetric and gynaecology services, including all maternity services, the worry that expectant mothers could one day have to travel outside of Fermanagh to give birth at Altnagelvin, Craigavon or Sligo has given cause for concern.


One place that did lose its maternity unit was Caithness General Hospital which is situated in Wick in the far north of Scotland.

Mothers there have to travel 120 miles to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness in order to give birth – something that protest group, Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT) have campaigned against as well as demanding the return of the maternity unit to Wick.

Chair of CHAT, Ron Gunn – who is a Councillor on Highland Council – says that were the same fate to fall upon the SWAH, mothers could face the bleak prospect of giving birth en route with the scenario of twin being born in different places.

He said: “There have been births in the lay-by and other horror stories over the years since 2016. You have been one or two cases of mothers having to give birth at the roadside when on their way down to Inverness.

“There was one case where a lady had twins with one of them being born in Golspie with the other twin being born in Inverness. Golspie hosts a small cottage hospital en route to Inverness.

“The vast majority of mothers have to go 120 miles down the road to Inverness which, on a good day, takes two and a half hours. However, that journey can take longer as there’s always complications such as bad weather and road accidents – it’s a real problem for mothers up here.

“In 2015, there was a death of a baby in Caithness whereby following an inquiry, it was decided in 2016 that NHS Highland would move the maternity consultants from Caithness General Hospital in Wick – making the hospital there a purely midwife-led unit – to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.


“So we’re left with only a small number of births in our unit. Last year, only four per cent of Caithness mothers gave birth in Wick.

“We’re in the process of fighting for – what we call – the Orkney model. What happens in the Orkney Islands is that they have a midwife-led unit which is backed up by consultants.

“So the majority of births up there are dealt by the midwife. The consultants are then brought in should any complications arise to assist the midwives.”

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