Fraserburgh birthing unit to re-open on February 1

FRASERBURGH and District Councillor Ian Tait has welcomed the news that the birthing unit at Fraserburgh is to re-open on February 1.

Thursday, 21st January 2010, 8:41 am

But he has expressed his disappointment and concern at the length of time it has taken.

Councillor Tait was speaking ahead of next month's re-opening after a period of five months, when he told the Herald: "As you know, I have been communicating several times to register dissatisfaction with the Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon and NHS Grampian officials about the suspension of the birthing unit.

"Nicola Sturgeon told me that the safety of the women came first and she was gpoing to leave the matter in the hands of NHS Grampian. I would agree that their safety is paramount but to me.

"It is also totally unacceptable that pregnant women in and around Fraserburgh should have to go outside their area to give birth.

"The birthing unit is a very good facility which took a lot of money to set up and it is important that there is no suggestion that it should be closed. I will oppose any proposal to move this to Peterhead.

"I am delighted to hear that the unit is re-opening but I am very disappointed and concerned at the length of time it has taken to do this. I am still waiting for information from the chief executive of NHS Grampian as to the NHS Grampian Board's procedures for appointing staff."

He added that, in his opinion, the staffing problem could have been anticipated and advertising procedures started much earlier and that he intends to get the timeline here and procedures used to see whether the NHS Grampian appointments procedure hindered getting the birthing unit open sooner.

"In the meantime, the senior manager of NHS Grampian has told me that the lead midwife is currently working out the on call rota and the unit will re-open for births on 1st February," he said.

Responding to Councillor Tait's comments, a spokesperson for NHS Grampian told the Herald: "We are delighted to announce the re-opening of Fraserburgh Hospital's Birth Unit on 1st February.

"The closure of Fraserburgh's birth unit was always going to be a temporary measure as the safety and wellbeing of our patients is paramount. We continued to provide the full range of ante and post natal care in Fraserburgh during this time."

She explained that in August last year, a combination of staff sickness, maternity leave and recruitment delays had resulted in the unit being under-staffed, saying: "The decision was made to suspend the service until all staffing slots were filled and the unit was working at full capacity again.

"The posts require a combination of complex skills and shift patterns and were not straightforward appointments."

Since April 2008 there have been 31 births in Fraserburgh. There are currently eight staff, both full and part-time at the unit.