South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called for the Scottish Government to take urgent action around midwifery services in Wigtownshire.

The Galloway Hospital Action Group have been campaigning for years for improvements to health services in the area, including midwifery. It’s almost four years since staff shortages at the birthing centre in the Galloway Community Hospital in Stranraer meant it was no longer able to carry out in-hospital births, resulting in mums to be having to travel to Dumfries if they wanted to give birth in hospital.

On Monday, Colin Smyth attended a meeting in Stranraer between members of the Galloway Hospital Action Group and local MSPs and Scottish Women’s Health Minister Maree Todd to discuss the issues.

Colin Smyth said: “This is the second meeting we’ve had with the Minister and while it is positive that she is taking an interest in this very serious issue, we now need to see action and not just warm words.

“There needs to be a very clear commitment that the aim from both the Health Board and the Scottish Government is to re-open the Clenoch Birthing Centre at the Galloway Hospital and a concerted effort made to recruit the midwifes to ensure that can happen.

“I accept this isn’t easy, especially in rural areas, because we do have a recruitment crisis in nursing and midwifery across the country that stretches back to long before the pandemic.

“It’s nearly four years since in-hospital births ended at the Galloway and the fact the Scottish Government hasn’t developed a proper strategy in that time to increase the number of midwifes we train, when we actually have a University campus in the region that teaches nursing and midwifery, really does show what a mess NHS workforce planning is in.

“There are Community Maternity Units across the country in areas similar in size and population to Wigtownshire and there is no reason why our area should be treated differently.

“It is utterly unacceptable that women in Wigtownshire face the real fear of having to give birth in a lay-by en route to hospital in Dumfries, which is two hours away, because the community maternity unit on their doorstep is closed.

“Other parts of Scotland have seen independent reviews into maternity services when they haven’t been working for the community and it’s clear the time is right for that to happen in Wigtownshire, so we can deliver the re-opening of a mid-wide led birthing service at the Galloway Hospital.”

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