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Eye On Index

Maternity Eye On 2001 - 02

Eye On Health Services In Caithness
Maternity Services

North Action Group Contacts - Caithness
The Belford Action Group - Fort William
Solutions Group - Belford Hospital Report
NHS Highland Board Members

Maternity Action Team Updates At NHS Highland
Minutes & Agendas Of NHS Highland

31 March 09
North Action Group Wind Up And Hand Over £2499 To Hospital
North Action Group (NAG)
formed by members of the Caithness community to fight the downgrading of the maternity unit at Caithness General Hospital finally wound up and handed over the balance of their funds £2499 to the League of Friends to spend on the maternity unit. The fight to save the unit from the loss of obstetricians took two and a half years and was finally won in June 2006. Members of North Action Group continued in existence to monitor the situation in view of several previous attempts by the health board to downgrade the Caithness maternity unit. Finally the group have stood down.

16 June 06
Three New Obstetricians Accept Posts At Caithness General Hospital

North Action Group was pleased to hear this week that three obstetricians who were offered posts at the maternity unit of Caithness General Hospital have accepted the offers of employment following interviews. Members of North Action Group said they would remain as group until staff had been appointed after their opposition to downgrading of the unit which began in 2003.  The group plan to hold meeting in the early Autumn to decide how to wind up the group and deal with the remaining campaign funds which flowed in non stop throughout the campaign from groups, businesses and individuals in Caithness and beyond.  This was the third time that the health authorities had attempted to convince people in the north that the unit should be downgraded and each time the campaigns were bigger than the previous one.

26 March 06
Latest Thinking On Maternity In Highland

This link will open the Intouch magazine produced by NHS Highland and this spring issue has several pieces on Maternity issues and shows how maternity issues for rural families are now being thought about.

17 January 06
Next Meeting Of North Action Group
Thursday 19 January 2006 7.00pm at Assembly Rooms Wick
Although the maternity issue seems to be resolved the North Action Group decided they would not dissolve until the obstetricians for the unit were actually in place.

17 January 06
The Caithness & Sutherland Maternity Action Team, meeting in Wick on Friday 13th January, unanimously welcomed NHS Highland’s decision to seek to appoint three substantive consultants to maintain and develop the service.  It was agreed that this brought the work of C&SMAT to an end and co-chairs David Alston and George Bruce thanked all who had participated in the process.  David Alston, as chair of the North Highland Community Health Partnership, stressed the importance of maintaining the dialogue with the community and between the professional groups, which had been built up during the consultation, and undertook to report back on progress to a smaller group of clinicians, users, NAG members and representatives of the Highland Council and CASE.  All agreed on the importance of advertising the posts widely, making them as attractive as possible and promoting the benefits of living in Caithness, using local knowledge and linking with other initiatives wherever possible.

Although the group work has come to an end, a number of issues have been identified which will be taken forward by the Board of NHS and by the Community Health Partnership, including the issues of patient and relatives accommodation in Inverness and the capacity for emergency retrieval of mothers and children from Wick to Raigmore.

1 December 05
North Action Group Delighted At NHS Highland Decision On Maternity Services
After Two Years Of Campaigning NAG Members Heard Last Night Of the Decision

Members of the North Action Group at their meeting on Wednesday evening were delighted to hear of the recommendation to go before NHS Highland's Board Meeting on 6th December that authority be given to seek to appoint three substantive obs. & gynae consultants for Caithness General Hospital

The third review of the service at CGH has taken some time but NAG are pleased that at its conclusion attention has been paid to the clearly expressed wishes of the local community.

NAG thank the members of the local community and businesses for their moral and financial support which greatly strengthened our determination and ability to mount a successful Campaign. It truly was a community inspired Campaign.  Almost £10,000 of donations flowed in to the North Action Group campaign over the past two years in an unprecedented surge of community support from individuals and businesses both large and small.

The outcome of the Campaign is a vivid illustration of successful partnership working, in this instance between ourselves, the Highland Council, CASE and supporters from within the local medical community. This latter support from GPs, locum consultants and midwives was crucial to the outcome.

NAG thank the Highland Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise for the £60,000 put forward to enable the socio economic review to be undertaken. The result gave considerable support to the community's views and was a major plank in the Campaigns' case as it indicated the possibility of considerable difficulty in recruiting staff to local industries if the Maternity Unit was downgraded and this could subsequently create an economic downturn in the area.

NAG also thank the Highland Council for facilitating their attendance at meetings with MSPs visiting the area.  NAG appreciate the difficult task the Board has to discharge and take this opportunity of thanking them for listening and acting upon the views expressed by the local community. This will help to restore public faith in NHS consultation processes and in the Board.

The last two years have been traumatic for the staff in the Maternity unit and NAG on behalf of the community thank them for their professionalism and dedication during what was a very difficult period for them.

We look forward to stable local Obs. & Gynae provision in the years ahead to the benefit of future users of these services.  North Action Group will decide when to disband once they see the final details for the Maternity and Gynae Services.

Caithness Maternity Services  - From NHS Highland
The Board of NHS Highland is to be asked next week to give the go ahead to recruiting three permanent consultant obstetricians posts based in Caithness.

Chairman of NHS Highland, Garry Coutts, said it was time to draw a line under the exercise: "When senior doctors raised serious concerns about the service the board was duty bound to fully investigate what they were saying. We have pulled out all the stops to try to find new and innovative ways of providing a service that would get the support of everyone; GP's, hospital doctors, midwives, and the public but have not been successful.

I am now keen to draw a line under the exercise which, I know, has been unsettling to all concerned. Trying to employ substantive obstetricians to be based in Caithness but with a wider role of developing maternity services for all of our rural areas will, I hope, give confidence back to the community and help us provide a service we can all be proud of.

I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the review for all of their hard work."

Roger Gibbins, Chief Executive, agreed: "We have been talking about this service for a long time now and it is time for action. It had been envisaged last year that it was possible to develop a new service but that has not been possible and we need to move on. We still need to modernise the service and find a sustainable solution. The appointment of permanent consultants will stabilise the service and will provide local leadership for its future development. We don't know if we will be successful, but we will be pulling out all the stops to get the right people."

Caithness Councillors Welcome Decision
Councillor David Flear the area convenor who along with other Caithness councillors has stood solidly behind the North Action Group campaign welcomed the decision of NHS Highland.  All Caithness councillors have been behind the campaign joining in marches demonstrations and much more.   Three Caithness councillors were members of North Action Group Bill Fernie, Tom Jackson and Graham Smith but everyone has been involved in speaking at meetings and in their own communities backing the campaign.

Caithness Maternity Service Saved! - Rob Gibson MSP Praises North Action Group's Stance
Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has welcomed NHS Highland Health Board's plans to recruit permanent consultants for Wick Maternity services. He said, 'Finally NHS Highland has agreed with campaigners that a consultant-led maternity service is needed in the Far North. This has taken several years to achieve and it can be the start of modernising and eventually demedicalising more of the birthing process.'  'It signals confidence in the midwife led services with consultant back up. I am immensely proud of the coherent arguments of the North Action Group that are backed up by the findings of the Kerr Report that guides Health policy throughout Scotland.' Rob Gibson

22 October 05
More Support For Maternity Campaign From The Weigh Inn Staff In Thurso
Support for the north Action Group's fight to save consultant led maternity and gynae services was given another boost by when John Fairweather, the management and staff of the Weigh Inn, Thurso held a raffle in aid of the North Action Group's Maternity Campaign. All prizes were kindly donated by the Weigh Inn and they raised £123.50. 24/7 badges are still available here and can be bought in the bar. Iain Ednie left and John Fairweather of the Weigh Inn are pictured here handing over the cheque to Karen Munro of North Action Group.
North Action Group are continuing to have regularly meetings to discuss the latest developments that are mainly surrounding the Maternity Action Team set up by NHS highland to try to find away forward.  NAG members are disappointed at the extremely slow progress pointing out the North Action Group was formed nearly two years ago in 2003 when the Calder report on Caithness General Maternity and Gynae services was published.  This is the third time in the past few years that the Health Board have reviewed the services with a view to downgrading and each time the Caithness and Sutherland populations have protested louder than the previous time.  The review process via the Maternity Action Team has been beset with problems from poor administration, badly timed meetings, lack of communication to sub group members and the departure of the temporary staff member appointed to run the the process of meetings and reports.  Meeting are back on track but there is still no end in site to the process. North Action Group members are as determined as ever to continue to campaign for the 24/7 cover not to be removed.  The NAG committee (Name was well chosen we think) would like to thank everyone from individuals,  local businesses, local voluntary groups and Highland Council for their continuing support in terms of donations and a wide range of other services from meeting rooms to paper and copying and much more.  Turn outs to public meetings have been excellent and no doubt there will be more to come.  Contact details for North Action Group can be found on the North Action Group web site or in the Eye On Maternity section on this web site.  Donations for the campaign can be sent to the chairman of North Action Group  - George Bruce.  Items for the web site on the maternity issue can be sent to the North Action Group Press Officer - Bill Fernie bill@caithness.org

16 September 05
New Leaflet On Caithness Maternity Issue From North Action Group
North Action Group continue to fight to retain a 24/7 consultant led maternity and gynae service at Caithness General Hospital and this week they launched another phase in their campaign.  The new leaflet makes the case yet again and shows the growing support from the medical community with many quotes from GP's and obstetricians.  The leaflet will be delivered to all houses in Caithness and north Sutherland thanks to the continuing financial support from many local groups, businesses and individuals.  The back of the leaflet can be folded over or cut out to make car or window sticker.

Midwife ‘did not have access to specialist back-up’ - The Herald
Ms Riach told the inquiry nothing more could have been done to save Chloe but admitted midwives at Inverclyde Hospital did not have access to specialist back-up. She said: "You don't have access to consultants after 5pm or at weekends and the nearest consultant-led unit is the Royal Alexandra at Paisley.
Report on the fatal accident enquiry at Greenock's Inverclyde Royal Hospital in the Daily Racord today -  when a midwife claimed she did not have the skills to prevent the death of a new born baby and no consultants were available.  North Action Group in Caithness continues to campaign to retain the consultant led service maternity and gynae services at Caithness General Hospital and sees this as an example of what might happen if 24/7 cover is not available to mothers in the far north with over 100 miles to Raigmore hospital in Inverness with transfers taking between three and four hours by road.

26 August 05
We Just Cant Let these Things Happen
Report From the Women and Health Maternity Service Provision Policy Group of the Scottish Women's Convention.  The report was launched yesterday and North Action Group's campaign in Caithness over the threatened downgrading of the maternity unit is highlighted.  The Scottish Women's Convention is a policy group funded by the Scottish Executive.  The report is in Pdf format.

Maternity Issue Gets More Publicity As Issue Rises Again Following the Report Yesterday
BBC   Evening Times   The Herald

Greenock Wants Maternity Unit Back As Still Birth Rate Rises 
People still unhappy following consultants move to Paisley
MP's Urged To Back Maternity Campaign - Cumbria
Protest Call On Maternity Unit Threat -
The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust had looked at closing all of Shropshire's GP-led maternity units in a bid to save more than £500,000, it was revealed last month.

26 May 05
A National report into the future of the NHS is "just what the doctor ordered" according NHS Highland chairman Garry Coutts.
Welcoming Professor David Kerr's report he explained, "This report is exactly the shot in the arm we were hoping for. It gives the strongest possible endorsement for keeping health services as local as possible.  It challenges the view that to get good health care everything should be centralised into huge hospitals in our major cities and maps out a bright future for GP's, nurses, other health professionals and local hospitals. I hope everyone in the Highlands from patients to surgeons and district nurses to hospital porters can get behind this vision for the future and help us make sure it is delivered".

Roger Gibbins, Chief Executive of NHS Highland, was a member of Professor Kerr's Advisory Group and co-chaired the Action Team looking at remote and rural health care.   "The work that we have done highlights that the health service needs to change if we are to tackle the challenges of the future. More and more
the health service is responding to people with chronic disease -
diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma - that we may not be able to cure but we can help to control. The numbers of people with these diseases in our communities is increasing as the population is aging and this will become a huge challenge for the future. At the moment we tend to react when people's conditions become critical, often with emergency admissions to hospital. We cannot go on like this - we simply won't be able to cope and we won't be serving patients well. Kerr recommends a completely different way of providing health care for people with chronic diseases. By identifying who these patients are, working with them in primary care to help them manage their conditions
and by providing health care locally in the least intensive settings we can vastly improve the quality of service for these people."

Roger Gibbins continued, "I am particularly pleased with the emphasis this national report has given to rural health care. A fifth of the population live in rural Scotland and Professor Kerr recognises that urban health care solutions will not fit these areas. The report highlights the role of the Rural General Hospital in both responding to emergencies and providing planned care. The report draws on the work of the Solutions Group and our colleagues in West Highland should be congratulated on the influence their work has had"

25 May 05
North Action Group Launch Supporters Badge
North Action Group have produced a supporters badge to both promote the ongoing campaign for maternity services in Caithness General Hospital and to help raise funds for the campaign.  Badges will be on sale in various shops and at the Continental Market on Saturday and Sunday in Wick

25 May 05
The Kerr Report On Scottish Health Services
Watch A video about the Report     The Full Report     National Framework For Service Change

The Maternity section from the report (on Caithness.org for ease of reference as the whole report ina Pdf file may take along time to download unless you are using broadband)

25 May 05
Gibson comments on Kerr Report
Highlands and Islands MSP Rob Gibson has commented on the
publication on the Kerr Report.   Mr Gibson said..... "Long suffering staff in remote and rural areas have known for years that there is a need for a specilised faculty for professional support. The final report of RARRAI (published last year) confirmed this. I wonder whether the minister agrees with Professor Kerr's proposals on page 43 of his report for a 'virtual school for rural health care' and how long will it be until such a school is opened."
MR Gibson continued...
"It is frustrating that given the amount of evidence collected and the amount of consultation that went on in preparation of this report that we will have to wait until the Autumn to debate on this report . The people of Scotland deserve to have these issues debated as soon as possible I see no reason why we should have to wait."
He ended..."Their was little in the way of detail over what would happen over maternity wards, save an oblique mention of the continuation of the Egams strategy. Therefore I shall be questioning the Health Minister over the Caithness maternity issue."

24 April 05
The case of Two Polish Consultants Dr Dabek and Dr Samberger

Two polish consultants who were dismissed by NHS highland from their posts at Caithness General have had their case heard by the General Medical Council and as has been reported in some newspapers been told that NHS highland presented n evidence to back up their dismissal and that no complaints had been made by any patients treated by the doctors despite NHS Highland contacting every patient.  Despite no evidence being presented and the case being dismissed by the GMC the two doctors still find it hard to get employment as NHS Highland had contacted other health authorities and the story was widely reported in the press and on the Internet.  Unfortunately the story has not had as large publicity as the first story and leave the doctors in an impossible position.  That is why the section on there positions is being placed on Caithness.org  An injustice and the fact that Caithness might have retained the services of two experienced consultants seems worthy of more public acknowledgement.  Further the damage done to both men and their families is difficult to fully calculate.  It is to be hoped that they will return to employment and help women having their babies.  In some way perhaps the items that will now begin to appear on this web site will assist in moving things forward to redress the balance of adverse publicity on the case especially as there was no case to answer.
A highly visible campaign to save consultant led services was being run by the North Action Group and these two doctors ended up in the middle of it all and the publicity at the time was much higher than might normally have been the case.  But this does not change the fact that they have done nothing wrong as was confirmed by the General Medical Council findings.  They came to Caithness General Hospital in good faith expecting decent treatment and they did not get it.  The local community in Caithness has been very supportive of their position and we will echo that on the web site.


19 April 05
What Has changed In Four Years?

From Caithness Committee Minutes 26 February 2001
(See Minutes of Caithness Committee dated 29th January, 2001)
The Convener intimated that a review of Maternity Services in the far north is ongoing, and that a Committee had been set up to act as a liaison with the public in this connection. During discussion Members intimated that they felt that Maternity and Gynaecology Services in Caithness were under threat and intimated that they desired an improvement of maternity services, gynaecological services and other specialist services under the review. Members expressed concern that the review of the Hospital Services was being carried out on the basis of cost rather than health, and were advised by the Convener that the review was conducted wholly on the basis of health and not cost. During discussion the following additional points were made: -
1. Centralising maternity services would mean individual first time mothers would not have their extended family around them at the time of childbirth, thus important family ties would be severed.

2. A reduction in Gynaecological Services would mean a reduced need for anaesthetists in the area which would have an impact on the number of other consultants in the area and possibly a consequent reduction in the number of operations carried out locally.

3. It may be difficult attract young couples into Caithness to live, if Caithness is not well served by Maternity Services. This would have an effect on the local economy.

4. The situation in the health service in Caithness should be made attractive in order to attract aspiring consultants.

5. With an increase in recruitment in construction and manufacturing industries in Caithness it is not logical to reduce services at the Hospital.

The Committee agreed that there should be a united campaign against a reduction of services at the Hospital in Caithness. They noted that the matter was to be considered by the full Highland Council at their next meeting, and requested that the Convener and the Area Manager draw up a written representation abhorring a reduction in services locally for submission to the appropriate authority.

21 February 05
Caithness and Sutherland Maternity Action Team
The Caithness and Sutherland Maternity Action Team has been set up by NHS Highland to look at a way forward for Maternity Services at Caithness General Hospital.  The first meeting agreed on the method to take forward the review and set up a number of sub groups to look at specific areas.  The group has representatives from NHS Highland, GP's, Medical Staff (Consultants and Midwives), Councillors, North Action Group and the ambulance service.

11 February 05
Caithness Maternity & Gynae Services  - A Pdf file
This is the document setting out what the Maternity Action Team will do and was set out by NHS highland

16 November 04
Response Of MR Brian Valentine Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist To the Public consultation on Maternity Services At Caithness General

9 November 04
Shaping The Future Of The NHS
Want Your Say?
Book A Place At Inverness Meeting Soon

The independent expert group looking at the future of NHS Scotland is holding a series of regional meetings with patients and medical professionals round the country in December.
The Kerr Group, chaired by cancer specialist Professor David Kerr, will be taking views to help them draw up a national framework to guide future decisions on how the NHS is run.
Professor Kerr said: "We need to plan carefully if we are to provide a service that provides maximum benefit for patients and their families. I am well aware of the concerns there are in some areas, but our job in the National Framework Advisory Group is to develop proposals that could be applicable across Scotland.  "The advisory group won't be making recommendations on local service change. Instead, we've been tasked with drawing up a blueprint for the health service that will set out shared principles for service improvement.  "We hope this will help Ministers to reach a view about how health care can be best delivered in Scotland.  "We are issuing a newsletter to all NHS staff and to a wide cross section of the public. People should look out for it in their GP surgery or in their local hospital.  "We will also be holding local meetings in a number of venues across Scotland. But we are conscious that not everyone can make it to these venues. That's why we have already met with interested parties in other smaller meetings, and we will continue to do so according to demand.  "All views will be taken into account by the advisory group as we prepare our plans. We expect to report to the Minister in the Spring of 2005."  Health Minister Andy Kerr said: "We need to take a hard look at how the NHS can continue to provide top-quality health services in the future.  "Patients expect that their care will be personal to their needs, as local as possible, as specialised as necessary and of the highest quality. We are totally committed to delivering that.  "It is clear that long-term decisions need to be informed by a national framework, built on the best evidence.
"That is why we have established an independent advisory group, chaired by renowned cancer specialist Professor David Kerr, to lead work to develop this framework.  "I want to see as wide a discussion as possible so that the advisory group can deliver a bold and confident vision. That means listening carefully to frontline staff, patients, carers and the general public."
The public meetings (all 7-9 pm) will be held at:
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, December 1
Inverness Drumossie Hotel, December 2
Edinburgh Usher Hall, December 6
Dundee Caird Hall, December 13
Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, December 15
Because of space limitations, places at each venue will be provided on a first-come-first served basis.
Those wishing to attend one of these meetings should write to: Freepost Plus, RLRS-EHHE-JTXC, Room GE16, St. Andrew's House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EH1 DIG, or email: nhsfuturedebate@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
Comments by post or email are also welcome.
In addition to the public meetings, the Group have also produced a leaflet seeking views, which will be distributed throughout the NHS for staff and patients.

New Maternity Model Being Proposed By NHS Highland
A new model for Maternity services is being put together by NHS highland Health Board.  NHS Highland Chairman, Garry Coutts said: ‘We know that the prospect of only a minority of mums being able to deliver in Caithness was one that the public could not support.   In response, we have begun to look at a model of care that will increase the opportunity of having your baby in Caithness.   I hope local people will work with us to develop this model fully.   A full report detailing this proposal and a way forward will be put to the NHS Highland Board meeting on December 7th.
Workshops will be held in Caithness in the coming weeks to help inform the committee report.’
Highland Councillors have been advised that a new model is emerging which could enable not only low risk, but also medium risk births to take place safely at Caithness General Hospital, Wick, while offering other specialist service enhancements.
This could result in up to two-thirds of all births taking place locally.
Councillors are asked to welcome this move and to seek Highland NHS Board's agreement to pursue the development of such a model involving the clinical community, the Council and other partners as appropriate and with community involvement. Until the new model is introduced, the Council want the current level of services to be maintained.

12 October 04
Private Agenda At The Mill Theatre, Thurso Tuesday Night
7:84 Theatre Company acted out the words of real people interviewed over the summer months in a new play by Lorenzo Mele.  Using the words of real people from several campaigns including the maternity campaign in Caithness and the Skye Bridge it mixed the real experiences with the official reports and jargon to make the topics of health and education come alive with the disappointments of teachers, nurses, patients and others at the failures of the Public finance initiatives and PPP to deliver services.

Gesture Maternity Politics?  Health Board Meetings In Caithness
They Sent A Full Team To Convince Caithness Folk Of Need To End Consultant Maternity Services


They were statutorily bound to hold public meetings for a major change in health services.  Well they cam and did hold the meetings but as the Rev bill Wallace said a few weeks ago the exercise was pointless.  The board already knew what people in Caithness wanted so they used the opportunity to tell everyone why they could not have what they wanted.  Was that consultation or was it a lecture in the vain of "We Know What's Good For You"  Certainly plenty of finger jabbing and pointing at the audience did not seem to win many friends.  Councillors David Flear and Bill Fernie at different meetings asked to have a consultation group similar to the one that has now settled the Belford Hospital debacle in Fort William.  However Health Board chairman Gary Coutts refused to defer the decision beyond the date already set for the end of the consultation on 9 November with a board decision to follow in December.  The public have until 9 November to send their views to the Health Board.

Meantime on the Caithness Maternity Front     Public Meetings Dates & Times
North Action Group members are in action in Wick and Thurso today gathering signatures for the petition to the Scottish Parliament, handing out leaflets advising of the dates and times of next weeks public meetings called by the Health Board.  The postcard reply campaign is going so well that almost all the outlets for the cards are reporting they have run out.  North Action Group have ordered another batch that will be available by the end of next week.  Meantime anyone can still write a letter to the board.  NAG expects that the public response to the boards consultation to be one of the largest ever seen in the Highlands as the public have responded well to the postcard campaign.  Wherever possible NAG is collecting the cards in for transmission to the Health Board to save postage costs that will be charged to the group is sent via the post.

4 October 04
West Highland Health Services Solutions Group Final Report

the report is now available on the Health Board web site and although it is about the Belford and Lorn hospitals there may well be implications from some of the report for Caithness.

30 September 04
NHS Highland has confirmed that there are still tickets available for all six public events they have arranged for next week to discuss the future of Maternity Services in Caithness.

Gill Keel is the Head of Public Involvement for NHS Highland and is making the arrangements for the meetings. " We still have tickets available for all the events," she said, " so anyone who wants to come along should get in touch now. People with tickets will be given guaranteed entrance to the event but anyone who turns up on the day will be allowed in, as long as there is space at the venue."

She explained that the events will be run on the same sort of lines as the 'Question Time' programme. "Pennie Taylor, a former health correspondent for BBC Scotland, will be facilitating the discussion. The aim is to have a two way discussion between members of the local communities and representatives of NHS Highland."

Tuesday, 5th October: 7:00 - 9:00pm in the Town Hall, Thurso
Wednesday, 6th October: 12:00 - 2:00pm in The Ross Institute, Halkirk
Wednesday, 6th October: 7:00 - 9:00pm in the Assembly Rooms, Wick
Thursday, 7th October: 12:00 - 2:00pm Community Centre, Lybster
Thursday, 7th October: 7:00 - 9:00pm in the Assembly Rooms, Wick
Friday, 8th October: 12:00 - 2:00pm the Strathy Village Hall, Strathy

Tickets can be obtained, free of charge, from Jan Robertson, telephone (01463) 706802. Tickets will be issued on a first come, first served basis, and people are free to choose which meeting they wish to attend.

The 'panel' members at the Thurso event will include Garry Coutts, Chairman of NHS Highland; David Alston, Chairman of the North Highland Community Health partnership; Sheena Craig, General manager of the North Highland Community Health partnership; and Dr Russel Lees, Consultant Obstetrician.

20 September 04
MSP Maureen MacMillan Renews Calls To Rotate Wick Based Consultants
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan has written to NHS Highland regarding the ongoing consultation on maternity services in Caithness and renewing her call for consultants to be rotated between Wick and Inverness.
In the letter Mrs Macmillan said, “It seems to me that a safe consultant led service could be maintained if there were much closer working between consultants at Raigmore and Wick. An option which has not appeared in your consultation documents is one that I raised with Professor Calder when I met him in Wick and which I raised in the Parliamentary debate on 11 March –
namely that consultants should rotate between Raigmore and Wick so that the Wick based consultants would see enough cases to keep up their skills and there would be a greater opportunity for professional networking. Professor Calder went on to mention the possibility of consultants working aross the two sites in his report.  Mrs Macmillan added, “In replying to the debate on 11 March Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm said specifically that NHS Highland should explore this option, an opinion he continues to hold. I realise that the proposal will require an increased number of consultants and change in working practices, but it should make it easier to attract suitable people to Wick and sustain their skills, thereby maintaining the consultant led service.”
Speaking today Mrs Macmillan commented, “What is important is that every possible solution to the Caithness maternity issue is examined so that the consultant led services can be maintained at the Caithness Maternity Unit. I have never been one for gesture politics but I am interested in constructive progress. I have been in dialogue with the Health Minister regarding this issue on several occasions now and will continue to do all within my power to deliver a final solution acceptable to the people of Caithness.”

16 September 04
New Locum Consultant Obstertician & Gynaecologist

Dr H.R. van Huyssteen, MB.Ch.B., FRCOG, M.Med (O&G) took up the post of Locum Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Caithness General Hospital on Monday 13 September 2004. Dr van Huyssteen, who has lived and practised private obstetrics and gynaecology in South Africa for 22 years, has taken up the post initially for one month: “I have been working as Locum Consultant in hospitals around the UK for the past 18 months. My special interests include management of obstetric wards, labour suite, colposcopy and vaginal operations.
I have just spent four months in Monklands and Wishaw Hospitals and because of my comprehensive experience am looking forward to plough back some of my knowledge in the Caithness area. I hope that it will be reciprocally beneficial to us all.
I am keen to explore some of the particular issues that a rural hospital like Caithness General has to offer.”
Dr. van Huyssteen joins Dr. Valentine and Dr. Stanczuk who are currently working as locums in Gynae at Caithness General. NHS Highland are currently advertising for long-term locums.

13 September 04
'Show your commitment to Caithness Maternity' is Rob Gibson's
challenge to Jamie Stone and Maureen Macmillan.
The SNP MSP challenge comes after the Liberal Democrat MSP for Caithness and Sutherland and Easter Ross and Labour list MSP for the Highlands and Islands have yet to sign Dr Jean Turner's parliamentary motion that calls for a moratorium on centralisation of NHS services in Scotland, until a national strategy is formed.
Mr Gibson said...
"This is a motion that deserves the support of all MSP's in Scotland let alone those in the Highlands and Islands. The threat of downgrading and centralisation touches the majority of people who live in the remote areas of the region and it would be nothing short of a disgrace if it was not supported by those MSP's who represent the area and claim to support 24/7 maternity services in Caithness."
Text of Jean Turner's motion and list of signatories taken on 13/9/4   S2M-1656 Dr Jean Turner:
Centralisation of Health Services in Scotland -
That the Parliament is concerned about the centralisation of health services across Scotland; believes that there must be a clear national strategy for the future structure of the NHS in Scotland, and therefore calls on the Scottish Executive to suspend all planned reorganisations while a national strategy is developed involving the public and health professionals.  Supported by: Mr David Davidson, Christine Grahame, Bruce Crawford, Murray Tosh, John Swinburne, Campbell Martin, Mrs
Nanette Milne, Stewart Stevenson, Alex Neil, Tommy Sheridan, Mr Stewart Maxwell, Alex Fergusson, Bill Aitken, Rob Gibson, Eleanor Scott, Jim Mather, Mr Bruce McFee, Shona Robison, Ms Rosemary Byrne, Tricia Marwick, Mary Scanlon, Fiona Hyslop, Chris Ballance, Patrick Harvie, Miss Annabel Goldie, Robin Harper*, Nicola Sturgeon*, Fergus Ewing*

11 September 04
Caithness Business Club Meeting On Maternity
The Caithness Business Club held an open meeting to debate the possible affect on the far north economy and local businesses.  David Dunnet chairman introduced speakers Rob Gibson SNP MSP, David Flear Caithness area convenor, George Bruce, chairman of North Action Group, Vice chair of NHS Highland Health Board, councillor David Alston and Mary Scanlon conservative MSP.  Jamie Stone MSP sent apologies as he was attending a family wedding in Ireland and John Thurso MP also sent apologies.

10 September 04
Nervous MSPs demand freeze on hospital cuts - Herald

19 August 04
Mortgaged up to the eyeballs?   "Private Agenda"  A New Play By 7:84 Theatre
North Action Group's Message To Have National Coverage In Theatres All Over Scotland
North Action Group Hails 7:84 Theatre Group's Latest Production - "When they start writing plays about you the message is getting through."  

Lorenzo Mele's directorial debut for 7:84 Theatre Company puts Scotland's public services under the spotlight.  Highlighted in the play covering issues surrounding current changes in health services will be the growing campaign to save Caithness Maternity services.  North Action Group is delighted to have been able to supply input to this new play which will feature the grassroots campaign.  North Action Group will supply material to be handed out to audiences all over Scotland about the Caithness maternity issue.  The play which tackles several controversial topics is likely to raise the public profile to the top of the politicians agenda.  This well known prestigious theatre group is well known for tackling issues important to people and their communities

What is it really like working in Scotland's public services today? Will the much heralded Private Finance Initiatives sweeping across Scotland save the day or sink the nation into debt?

Who better to answer these questions than those at the heart of the matter?

The campaigners and teachers, pupils, midwives, doctors, porters, nurses, technicians, accountants and senior managers toiling in our public services have created Private Agenda.  Based entirely on true stories gathered during interviews in 2004, 7:84 Theatre Company's Artistic Director, Lorenzo Mele, has travelled across Scotland to go beyond the jargon and discovers that the truth really is stranger than fiction.

This is a surreal and maddening journey that starts with a trip over the Bridge to Skye, uncovers corporate cuts in Caithness, finds fighting in Fort William and pillaging in Perth's Royal Infirmary. Private Agenda goes behind the scenes at the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and examines the blueprints of the new schools popping up on every corner, in every town.

17 August 04
Petition At Scottish Parliament
If You agree hop over and sign the petition -
The petitioner requests that the Scottish Parliament urges the Scottish Executive to ensure the provision of acute 24hr a day all year round consultant-led services across Scotland, including rural communities.

13 August 04
Caithness Minister Bill Wallace Hits Out At Current Shambles Over Maternity
“NHS Highland prompt action in dismissing unsatisfactory staff is to be welcomed. However,the current shambles over the Maternity services shouldn’t be allowed to be an excuse for down-grading the Unit at Caithness General. The public are clear about the type of Health Service they want. The Government, to their credit, have invested much new money into the NHS.  In the light of that it is unthinkable that the service for the future should be less than in previous years.

4 August 04
SSP Letter Challenges Health Board Members Ahead Of Public Consultation Announcements
Luke Ivory the SSP spokesman for Caithness & Sutherland has challenged Health Board members in a letter issued directly to them.   Mr Ivory challenges the centralisation mentality and appeals directly to Health Board members to reject the proposals being put forward in the consultation paper.  Mr Ivory claims  "SSP members have been dismayed by the level of misinformation emanating from your own officials, false statistics and pressure on employees to remain silent."   The Scottish Socialist Party are one aof a growing list of political organisations, churches, trade unions , businesses, Council CASE, HIE and numbers of the local population in highland rejecting the Health Board proposals about to be included in the statutory consultation to last three months.

4 August 04
Closure of Wick Maternity Unit Would Be ‘tip of iceberg’ Claims Caithness Presbytery
‘All rural hospitals would be under threat.’

Members of Caithness Presbytery, the largest membership organisation in Caithness, are extremely concerned about the future of maternity services at Caithness General Hospital.  A report written by the Reverend Bill Wallace,  Minister of Pulteneytown and Thrumster Church, Wick says that the so called public ‘consultations’ held by successive Health Service management groups have one thing in common. They have shown that there is, in fact, no need to consult the public – there is a near unanimous view in the community that the retention of a Consultant led maternity service is the only acceptable option.

1 August 04
North Action Group Launch Supporters T-Shirt In Maternity Campaign
North Action Group leading the protest over the possible downgrading of Caithness General Maternity Unit launched a supporters T-shirt on Saturday at Wick Gala's Fair In the Square.  NAG committee members set up two fund raising stalls at the fair and launched the new T-shirt. The stalls had a range of fund raising initiatives on the stalls and the team took the opportunity to hand out leaflets and gain more signatures for the petition now spreading out across the north of Scotland.  The stalls raised over £500.  T-shirts cost £8 and can be ordered from the committee.

24 June 04
North Action Group Demo Took Debate On Maternity To MSP's In Edinburgh

Several MSP's mainly from opposition parties came over to speak to members of North Action Group outside the parliament building at the Lawnmarket, Edinburgh.  North Action Group members and supporters reiterated why they were demonstrating.  Convenor David Flear joined North Action Group for the demo making four local councillors in Edinburgh including Graham Smith, Tom Jackson and Bill Fernie who had earlier contacted all 126 MSP's inviting them to meet the group on the day.  Two MSP's mentioned Caithness General during First Ministers question time that day. NAG members Chairman George, vice-chair Aelex Bain and press officer Bill Fernie all gave interviews to Television and Radio stations.

7 June 04
North Action Group Dance Raises Over £1000 For Maternity Fight
The organisers of the dance held on Friday in the Waterfront were delighted to have raised over £1000 to be added to the growing fighting fund in aid of the campaign to retain consultant led services at Caithness General Hospital's maternity unit.  North Action Group are to take the campaign to Edinburgh when a large group will assemble outside the Scottish Parliament at the Mound in Edinburgh.  Group members are being supported by MSP Jamie Stone during their visit.  A final total will be announced shortly.

Earlier Items On Maternity Issue

A Brief History Of Midwifery
NHS History
NHS Explained

Read All About Caithness Maternity & Scotland's Hospital Cuts In The News Media


7 December 04
Protesters vent anger at health services talk

20 October 04
New breed of doctor could play part in reformed NHS

5 October 04
Health Minister Sacked In Cabinet Reshuffle -
Scottish TV
No Change In Health Policy - BBC
Same faces do different jobs in the lukewarm change -
McConnell's NHS revolution... -
Chisholm pays price in Cabinet reshuffle -
200 join hospital cuts rally - Evening Times
Chisholm leaves Health post in Cabinet shuffle - Scotsman
McConnell reshuffles Scottish ministers EPolitix.com
Chisholm moved as McAveety is sacked - Evening Times

2 October 04
Chisholm Pulls Through in Health Reforms Debate - Scotsman
Minister survives confidence move - BBC
Queen Mum's will live on in £100m new joint hospital - Evening Times
Jubilation at hospital reprieve - BBC
Thousands set for city rally to protest at hospital closure plans -

30 September 04
Malcolm Chisholm scores a Pyrrhic victory  - Scotsman - Opinion Column Scathing On Chisholm
Chisholm bows to hospital campaigners - Scotsman The Queen Mothers Hospital Glasgow turnabout
Campaigners to hold rally over hospital closure plans - Scotsman - About today's Demo in Glasgow
Debate is a few decibels short of a health uproar
 - Scotsman
First-hand view of a health service at breaking point - The Herald
Only one Labour MSP rebels against executive - The Herald
Tough decision-maker leads advisory group - The Herald - Professor Calder Leads the Review Group
Cuts across the country - The Herald

22 September 04
Tragedy Waiting To Happen - Daily Record
Hospital cuts 'could kill patients' - Scotsman
Chisholm told: maternity changes could kill - The Herald

Hospitals Still Hitting The Headlines In The Papers
McConnell annoyed at vocal MPs -
Sunday Herald
McConnell under attack over hospital protest jibe - -Scotsman
First minister scorns health protests  - The Herald

McConnell is under fire over 'insult'
JACK McCONNELL has been accused of insulting campaigners against hospital closures after appearing to dismiss their protests. Pressed ...

Chisholm hit by backlash on St John's
The Scotsman, UK - Sep 15, 2004
POLITICIANS have called for the resignation of Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm over his failure to stop services from being removed from St John’s Hospital. ...

Hospital cuts are bigger threat than Iraq, Chisholm told
The Scotsman, UK - Sep 14, 2004
Story in full MALCOLM Chisholm, the Executive’s health minister, was yesterday warned that public anger over proposed hospital cuts poses a greater electoral ...

First minister scorns health protests
JACK McConnell yesterday delivered a public rebuke to the thousands of Scots who have staged countrywide protests against hospital closures, saying: "Just ...

Chisholm gets rough ride on health
Glasgow Evening Times, UK - Sep 15, 2004
Health minister Malcolm Chisholm has had a rough ride from Labour MPs worried at the impact of local hospital cutbacks. The minister ...

Glasgow Daily Record, UK - Sep 15, 2004
HEALTH Minister Malcolm Chisholm yesterday faced Labour MPs as fears grew over the impact of hospital cutbacks. He attended the ...

Aberdeen Evening Express, UK - Sep 15, 2004
Scottish ministers were accused of presiding over a "massive haemorrhaging" of hospital services as official figures showed that one in five beds in Scotland ...

MPs tell Chisholm: We’ll disown you on health
The Herald, United Kingdom - Sep 14, 2004
LABOUR MPs publicly broke ranks with the Scottish Executive over the health service crisis after Malcolm Chisholm last night at Westminster failed to convince ...

13 September 04
Health Reform - No Pain No Gain - The Sunday Herald
As health campaigns such as North Action Group in Caithness and others have taken off all over the country newspapers everywhere are now on the case.  With cumulative signatures on various petitions now reaching 250,000 this is the biggest revolt by people since the poll tax.  The North Action Group petition is also yet to be added to the total as it is still circulating in the county heading for a hand over in October.  The Health Board Ships may be slowing but they have not yet changed direction.  The consultation for Caithness General maternity is already well underway but demands for it to be extended or even postponed until after a national review are growing.

12 September 04
Health Campaigns Heading To Take On The Politicians Over Cuts In Services - Sunday Mail
North Action Group is part of the group heading to form a new political party to ensure that the cuts in services being discussed all over Scotland do not happen without a fight where it really counts  - at the ballot box.  For many months NAG has been represented at meetings in Perth of the new group.  NAG members like others wait to see if Health Boards can be made to stop their current moves to downgrade and close services against the wishes of patients who happen also to be voters.


Health reforms 'not set in stone'

The priority of a public service is to serve the people

Raise Your Game

11 Aug 04
Caithness maternity row takes new twist
grampian tv, UK 

11 Aug 04
Maternity unit in state of chaos after sackings
The Scotsman, UK -

11 Aug 04
Two Polish doctors sacked amid fears for clinical competence
The Herald, UK

4 Aug 04
Aberdeen Evening Express

30 Jul 04
Aberdeen Evening Express

26 Jul 04
Consultation on maternity cuts

26 Jul 04
Campaigners cheer move on maternity
The Scotsman

26 Jul 04
Campaign group hails delay over maternity decision
The Herald

17 Jun 04
Protest over maternity unit cuts

15 Apr 04
Staff crisis hits maternity unit

21 Mar 04
Marchers condemn maternity plans

16 Mar 04
NHS board backs maternity cuts

10 Mar 04
Report queries rural baby units

15 Dec 03
Fears over north maternity cover

20 Oct 03  
Minister backs maternity changes

Read this on the last Review and you may think here we go again
03 Aug 01
Reprieve for Highland baby unit
In this item you can hear broadcast of a Caithness GP and Local councillor Deirdre Steven talk about the issues.  Nothing has changed.  the situation regarding geography is the same now as it always has been

Who You Might Contact
David Flear -
Area Convenor

or write to
David Flear
Caithness Area Convenor
Church Street
KW12 6YD

Malcolm Chisholm MSP
Minister for Health and Community Care
Mary Mulligan MSP
Deputy Minister For Communities
Jack McConnell MSP - First Minister
Jamie Stone MSP  - Lib Dem
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Rob Gibson MSP SNP
Highlands & Islands
Jamie McGrigor MSP Conservative
Highlands & Islands
Maureen MacMillan MSP - Labour
Highlands & Islands
Jim Mather MSP - SNP
Highlands & Islands
Mary Scanlon MSP -Conservative spokesman on health
Highlands & Islands
Eleanor Scott MSP Green
Highlands & Islands

Emailing Tony Blair - Prime Minister

Here Is Where To Find Out Who To Contact
Scottish Parliament

Members Of The Scottish Parliament - with email addresses
More contact email addresses for Scottish Parliament
Scottish Executive
Highland Health Board  ON SHOW Site
10 Downing Street

Petition By Jamie Stone MSP To Scottish Parliament

7 October 03
Review Maternity Services Across whole of Scotland
 29 July 03
Safety Fears Spark Maternity Shake-up

The Review
Expert Group On Maternity Services - Ref Report
Remit and Membership Of Expert Group

Government Documents
A Framework For Maternity Services In Scotland Pdf

A Framework for Maternity Services In Scotland 2001

Implementing A Framework for Maternity Services in Scotland Overview Report of the Expert Group on Acute Maternity Services

Sustainable Maternity Service Provision In Remote and Rural Areas Of Scotland

The Problem - Taken From:-
Expert Group on Acute Maternity Services: Reference Report

    There is a consensus of opinion amongst the planners and providers of maternity care throughout Scotland that, given the constraints raised in the previous sections, the present configuration and levels of intrapartum and neonatal care are no longer sustainable in the short, medium and long term.

  2. This has arisen due to changes in the population and demographic features. Scotland has a centralised population density with some rural dispersion together with a reducing population, a falling birth rate, a reduction in family size and women having children later, thus changing the volume and complexity of intrapartum care. Maternity needs have changed as there are more complex maternal morbidities, complex and operative delivery procedures are increasing and advanced neonatal care means that ill, premature and low birthweight babies are being looked after more successfully. All maternity care professions are experiencing difficulty in recruitment and retention. Increasing demands of clinical governance and quality of care mean that it is difficult to provide an appropriately trained and competent professional workforce to provide quality of care in all the present intrapartum locations. In terms of the medical workforce, there are difficulties in future compliance with 48 hours European Working Directive. The constraints on junior doctors’ working hours and implementation of the Calman recommendations on medical training, coupled with difficulties experienced in recruitment and retention and increasing demands of clinical governance and quality of care, make it increasingly difficult to provide an appropriately trained workforce to provide quality care in all the present intrapartum locations.