MANY expectant women due to give birth on Skye and Lochalsh are to be denied the chance of given birth locally due to a shortage of midwives and staff absences.
NHS Highland has announced the “temporary suspension” of its out-of-hours midwifery service in the area – forcing many mums-to-be having to travel over 100 miles to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
The suspension will take effect from Monday and health bosses anticipates this will be for a month in the first instance.
NHS Highland west area manager Tracy Ligema said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly but, because of staff shortages through illness, we have been left with no option.
“There are currently insufficient midwives in Skye and Lochalsh to cover the out-of-hours on-call required for local births and to ensure compliance with European Working Time Regulations.
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“The normal planned daytime midwifery service will continue unchanged: 9am-5pm, seven days per week.”
She added that an ongoing search had so far failed to secure adequate cover, pointing out that midwifery was one of a number of specialties where there was currently a general shortage of staff.
The temporary suspension will apply to the period outwith the normal working hours of 9am-5pm, seven days a week.
It will mean that women who planned to have their baby locally will have to go to Raigmore maternity unit in Inverness for their birth if this occurs during out of hours.
Sarah McLeod, NHS Highland’s lead midwife in the area, said: “The midwifery team for Skye and Lochalsh has shown tremendous dedication during what has been a difficult time, caused by staff shortages.
“However, we simply have to suspend the local birth option out-of-hours until things get back on an even keel.
“We hope everyone in the community understands the reasons for this and we thank them for their support in this challenging time.”