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Maternity Index Eye On Index

Maternity Eye On 2001 - 02

Eye On Health Services In Caithness
Maternity Services
2003 - 2004
Earlier Items

22 May 04
Lesley Riddoch Show From BBC Radio Scotland At Wick Featured Caithness Maternity Issue

22 May 04
Mothers and North Action Group Head To Head With Health Board On Lesley Riddoch Show
Caithness Folk United Batter Health Board Chairman And Professor Calder - Listen Yourself - Who Is Right?
If you missed the programme you can hear it for the next seven days on Listen Again at BBC Radio Scotland.  Follow the link and then select Lesley Riddoch Show for Friday.  The programme heard from Health Board chair Gary Coutts and Professor Calder who produced the report with recommendations about Caithness Maternity.  Hear local mothers, midwife Margaret Hart, Convenor David Flear, NAG Chairman George Bruce, Councillors and NAG members Graham Smith and Bill Fernie, Wcik Community Council chair and NAG member Aeliix Miller, Martin Duffy NAG member plus others.

22 May 04
North Action Group Edinburgh Maternity Protest Support Grows From The Capital
the North Action Group are taking the maternity protest to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 17 June.  Support is coming in from people in Edinburgh who have Caithness connections but the numbers look set to increase as local trade unions are sending supporters from Caithness and Harwell.  UKAEA is granting time off to a few members to attend the protest as NAG members set out to lobby MSP's  If you are in Edinburgh and want to join the NAG demo at the Scottish Parliament at The Mound get in touch with any NAG member.

22 May 04
North Action Group Members Will Again Attend Health Board Meeting on 1 June
NAG members are determined to let no opportunity to show that people in the northern Highland cannot be ignored and will once again send a delegation to the board meeting on 1 June at Assynt House, Inverness.  The feeling is that NAG members are prepared to travel  the miles to Inverness and Edinburgh so that mothers to be and their families do not have to go over 100 miles from Wick or 130 miles from North West Sutherland if maternity services are down-graded.

16 May 04
North Action Group  - Inverness Protest
At Raigmore Hospital

North Action Group took the protest over Maternity and other services at Caithness General Hospital to Raigmore Hospital on Saturday.  North Action Group joined forces with the group protesting about the handing over of the scanner to a private company to run for profit.  The NAG protest attracted media interest from newspapers and Moray Firth Radio in addition to mentions on Radio Highland on Friday.  Lots of motorists tooted their horns in support as they passed by the demo.

16 May 04
North Action Group Also In Perth On Saturday
Chairman of the North Action Group, George Bruce and committee member Martin Duffy represented Caithness at a Scotland wide gathering of protest groups in Perth on Saturday.  The meeting was called to exchange views and find out whether there was a need to form a national organisation to bring together the many groups facing downgrading or closures of their local hospital services in Scotland.  George Bruce was interviewed by BBC TV Scottish News and the item is expected to be on at 12.30pm on Sunday.

16 May 04
First Minister Jack McConnell Passes Buck Back To NHS Highland Health Board
In an interview on Moray Firth Radio on Sunday 16 May the first Minister said it was the responsibility of the Health Board to balance the consultants and experience required at different locations.

16 May 04
North Action Group To Increase Public Awareness Nationally With Edinburgh Demo
North Action Groups plans to lobby Members of the Scottish Parliament on 17 June are now in place.  A group from Caithness will demonstrate outside the parliament at the Mound in Edinburgh from about 11.30am till after first Ministers Question Time.  This will be followed by meeting any MSP's who care to speak to the group and a press conference.  A new leaflet has been prepared by North Action Group and will be distributed in Edinburgh and other places as NAG attempts to ensure that the plight of Caithness mothers and babies is known nationally.

16 May 04
Want To Join The Edinburgh Demo?
Supporters of Caithness Maternity Protest living in the central belt of Scotland are already indicating they will be joining the group from Caithness on the day.  Expats, Students and others living in and around Edinburgh have indicated they will be at the Mound for what is already looking like a much bigger demonstration than Saturdays in Inverness.  A bus will leave Caithness on 16 June to take demonstrators to Edinburgh.  North Action Group will cover all costs from the fast growing fighting fund being generously supported by local people and businesses.  If anyone would like to join the protest in Edinburgh they can travel with the group or meet up in Edinburgh.  Contact Bill Fernie bill@caithness.org if you will be there or wish to book a place on the FREE bus.

9 April 04
Perth Action Group Fires First Salvo As North Action Group Prepares To Join National Campaign
The Perth Action Group has fire the first salvo in a new national campaign that is about to take off in Scotland to save a range of NHS services. The North Action Group is one of the many who will shortly be in Perth to form a new alliance of groups from across Scotland taking all the local campaigns to a new level. Like the North Action Group other groups are beginning to realise that the solutions to this huge problem will have to be dealt with by MSP's in Edinburgh.  An article in the Press and Journal today sets the scene that may shortly be common as the small groups band together for support and to gain the clout to take on the might of area Health Boards.

2 April o4
NHS Highland Announces Gary Coutts As New Chairman
Highland Councillor Gary Coutts is the new chairman of NHS Highland following an announcement today.  The new board will have their first meeting on Tuesday 6 April and up to 14 members of the North Action Group and other Caithness folk intend to be at the meeting to hear how they decide on the paper being presented by Chief executive Roger Gibbins.   North Action Group intends to contact board members regarding the situation in Caithness and to make life easier for anyone who wishes to write to the board members on the topic we have gathered together some of the contact information and details about the various board members as these are the people who will help decide on the future of Maternity services in Caithness.

1 April 04
The Highland Council has repeated its call on the NHS Highland Board to delay issuing a consultation on the future delivery of maternity services in Caithness and North Sutherland until a social and economic impact study, to be commissioned jointly by the Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, is completed. Convener Councillor Alison Magee and Caithness Area Convener Councillor David Flear also argue that the newly-formed Board, which meets for the first time on Tuesday (6 April), should be allowed to settle into their new jobs before taking such a far-reaching decision and that the holiday months during the summer are not the most appropriate time to consult with the public.

Paper By Chief Executive of NHS Highland Rushing The New Board
A paper to be put before the new Health board for discussion on 6 April leaves only two options if his recommendations are accepted by the members.  

Professor Calder's Report In Full

21 March 04
Huge Crowds Turn Out To Support Maternity Rally In Wick
he crowds turned out in huge numbers with estimates of over 2000 in support of the North Actions Group's call to support consultant led maternity services in Caithness.  From 2.20pm onwards the crowds lined up and eventually encircled the Caithness General Hospital before moving off down the Cliff and long Bridge Street and into Market Square

North Action Group Delivered Mothers Day Card To Maternity Unit
Members and supporters of the North Action Group delivered a large Mothers Day card to the staff at the maternity unit before the march to the rally began at Caithness General Hospital.   Many members of the committee of of North Action Group have been themselves or had relatives in the maternity unit.  they wish to ensure that future services are retained for the community in the future.

George Bruce Chairman Of North Action Group Overwhelmed By Support
George Bruce reiterated the north Action Groups intentions to fight all the way for maternity services in Caithness.  He thanked everyone for turning out in such large numbers and with few comparisons in recent years declared this the biggest show of felling the government has yet seen.  With other groups all over the country fighting to for other units there was little doubt that this was a force the MSP's in Edinburgh must take note of.

Rob Gibson MSP Calls For Cross Party Unity On Maternity Issue
SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands has called for cross Party co-operation over the threatened Maternity Unit at Caithness General Hospital. Mr. Gibson was speaking at the protest and he said..."This is a chance for all shades of political opinion to get together to come up with constructive solutions to the problem of centralisation of the Health Service. What we need is a unity of purpose where we all speak with a clear voice."  "Ultimately the health minister cannot leave Caithness and north Sutherland in no-man's land."  Mr Gibson also called for health board members to be made accountable and face the ballot box.

Maureen Macmillan MSP Delighted At Support For Caithness Maternity Unit
MSP Maureen MacMillan stated her full support for the people of the north and their fight to retain consultant led services


Jamie Stone MSP Says "Only God Almighty Can Change Geography"
Jamie Stone MSP was he said amazed by the huge support at the biggest demonstration of its kind he had ever seen in the north of Scotland.  Outlining the reasons why the Health board and the Scottish Executive had to think again and referring to weaknesses in the Calder report he was given enthusiastic responses from the crowd for committing himself to do everything in his power to save services in Caithness General Hospital

Area Convenor David Flear Declares Highland Council & Councillors Support The Campaign
David Flear was firm in his statements that not only was highland council firmly on the side of the campaigners fighting to save consultant led services but they were asking that no decisions were taken until the results of the Council and HIE Impact Study was completed to show the social and economic consequences of running down maternity services on the north of Scotland.

Luke Ivory For Scottish Socialist Party Supporting Fight For Caithness Maternity Services  
Luke Ivory for the Scottish Socialist Party made a stirring speech in support of the people fighting to save maternity services.  He also added his party's voice to the growing demand to remove un-elected health board quangoes.  He said it was time to remove the un-elected "Placemen" of the Scottish Executive.  The suggestion found favour with the assembled crowd and he was cheered and clapped.

Aelex Bain Vice Chair Of North Action Group Vows To Fight Campaign With Everything
Thanking everyone for speaking and the crowds for coming Aelex Bain pledged that North Action Group members would be  carrying on the campaign with everything they could think of.  Aelex Bain has two children and has her own personal story of how without consultants being on hand in Caithness she would have suffered serious consequences.  Her story is echoed by others on the north Action Committee as well as many other women who have come forward to tell there own stories. 

Global Funds Begin To Come In From Caithness Connected Folk Everywhere
North Action Group are beginning top receive offers of financial support from round the globe as the Scots everywhere and particularly those with northern connections rally to the cause of retaining consultant led maternity services in the north of Scotland.  what began as a small campaign is turning out be a rallying call to the Scottish diaspora.  Donations To the fight To Save Consultant Led Maternity services in Caithness can be sent to Treasurer - Councillor Tom Jackson, 15 Upper Burnside Avenue, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 7XA

Caithness Pipe Bands Join The Fight For Maternity Services
The spontaneous offers from three different pipe bands in Caithness brought together a big sound to lead the demonstrators at Caithness General Hospital and to lead the march along Bridge Street and into Market Square to hear from North Action Group and the assembled politicians.  The rousing sound hammered along Bridge Street and resounding in the Market Square urged folk to say "There is no way we can lose now and we will not give up" 

Call Goes Up To Scrap Unelected Health Board Quangoes
MSP Rob Gibson SNP and Luke Ivory SSP both called for an end to unelected Health Boards and that elections should be brought in to make the individuals accountable to the electorate.  In what may turn out to be an unexpected wake up call the crowds greeted the idea enthusiastically cheering and clapping each time the idea was suggested.  Calls to ensure that all the individuals are made known to everyone as soon as they take office after 1 April were in place.  NHS highland Health Board members will no longer be allowed to be faceless as the previous board were.   North Action Group members are to take every step possible to highlight who is on the new board.

North Action Group Calls On People To Attend Health Board Meetings From Now On.
All Health Boar meetings are open to the public but few people if any ever avail themselves of the opportunity to see them in action.  north Action Group hopes to change all that and have people attending every meeting until the maternity issue is settled.   the next meeting in on 6 April in Inverness and NAG is organising for people to attend and anyone without transport can contact NAG to arrange for a lift.  Depending on numbers a bus may be organised although this expensive.

21 March 04

SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands has called for cross Party co-operation over the threatened Maternity Unit at Caithness General Hospital.

Mr. Gibson was speaking at the protest and he said..."This is a chance for all shades of political opinion to get together to come up with constructive solutions to the problem of centralisation of the Health Service. What we need is a unity of purpose where we all speak with a clear voice."

"Ultimately the health minister cannot leave Caithness and
north Sutherland in no-man's land."

Also Mr. Gibson launched a leaflet listing the very minimum of changes that would be needed to boost the Caithness General Maternity Unit, they included....

To Recruit and train maternity consultants to rotate their work between Wick and Inverness. 
Invest in equipment for new born baby care at Caithness General Hospital. Hire ambulance planes and helicopters to work out of Wick airport and upgrade the second run- way.
Provide free travel and B&B services for families with complicated birth cases in Inverness.
End A9 road journeys for pregnant mums and babies to and from Inverness.
Elect Health Boards to ensure local accountability Set up rural medicine faculty centred on UHI to back up case for local medical solutions alongside acute centres.

17 March 04
MSP Rob Gibson Fears Other Affects Of Maternity Downgrading

SNP MSP fore the Highlands and Islands  Rob Gibson is calling for an inquiry into the Social, Economic and Clinical impact that the downgrading of the Maternity Unit at Caithness General Hospital in Wick will have on the County.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of Professor Calder's public meeting Mr Gibson said...."It is time that an assessment is made on how this change to health provision in the North will affect every aspect of life in the area. There is a real danger that this could become a domino affect and that more and more services will be down graded or lost altogether."

He added...."This downgrading could affect the future sustainability and growth of Caithness, therefore it is important that research is carried out to asses what impact the downgrading of one service has on the community, in order to
safe guard others."

He finished by questioning the Executives commitment to all parts of Scotland...."The Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm says that he is committed to investing in front line services, I would ask the minister if he believes that Caithness and Fort William are beyond the front line? If this is so then the future of rural and remote regions in Scotland and the Highlands and Islands looks grim."

17 March 04
The Scottish Socialist Party has condemned the report by Professor Calder, describing it a ‘a death warrant for rural surgery’.

Frank Ward, secretary of Caithness & Sutherland SSP and a member of the North Action Group formed to organise resistance to the threat of downgrading, added to withering criticism of the Calder Report.

He said  - “The Report is a disgraceful rubber-stamp on NHS plans to centralise all medical services and it must be resisted. It exaggerates the difficulties and dismisses alternative solutions without any serious consideration. It is a death warrant for rural surgery.”

“The report accepts that it is inevitable that other medical services will be lost as well. The loss of maternity services will result in the loss of anaesthetic services, which will threaten the future of Caithness general surgery. As Carolyn Leckie stated in the Scottish Parliament, the hospital is in great peril and the report implicitly accepts that.”

“In addition to the Calder Report there are other mechanisms in place to enable further cutbacks across Scotland. Under the guise of an academic research programme, NHS management is studying how these cuts can be implemented and rolled out across Scotland, using Caithness as the model.”

“The Calder report also says that ALL Scotland’s consultant-led units – including surgical and other disciplines - with under ten consultants will no longer be viable!”

“The committee itself was loaded with hand-picked favourites with vested interests who could be relied upon to deliver the required verdict. It included a man currently arranging the closure of Perth Royal Infirmary maternity unit and its absorption into his own department at Dundee Ninewells.”

Mr Ward, who was ejected from the Board meeting by Police after the Chairwoman refused to take any questions from the floor, added: “The Report is yet another whitewash of government incompetence and lack of planning. It is also incompetent – using spurious scientific methodology that any sixth year student would laugh at.”

16 March 04
North Action Group Web Site Launched In Time For Special Health Board Meeting In Wick  -
The new web site of the North Action Group fighting to save the consultant led services at Caithness General Hospital maternity unit has been launched.  The new web site address is www.northaction.org
the Health Board will hold the special meeting to receive Professor Calder's report on Tuesday 16th at 2.00pm  Members of the board will begin to arrive much earlier and demonstrators may gather at the beginning and for the end of the meeting.  The new web site set up by Caithness.org will be found by a link at the side of this page.  Reports from the North Action Group, Press Releases and comments will shortly begin to be posted.  anyone can add their comments about the current situation. 

11 March 04
The Convener of The Highland Council’s Caithness Area Committee, Councillor David Flear, has welcomed the chance to speak to the NHS Highland Board when it meets in Wick next week to discuss the findings of an independent review carried out by Professor Andrew Calder into the safety and sustainability of maternity services in Caithness and Sutherland.

Kinbrace Folk Organise Bus To Come To Mothers Day Demo In Wick
It is a long way from Kinbrace To Wick but the folk there know that it is also a long way to Inverness for any woman expecting a baby if there are problems.  People from Kinbrace in Sutherland will travel to Wick to join the march and demonstration in Market Square, Wick on Mothers Day at 2.30pm from the hospital.

Maternity Discussion On Lesley Riddoch Show on BBC Radio Scotland  - Play Again
Go to the play it again place and select Thursday.  the show last for an hour and begins with the news headlines etc.  The programme last for an hour.

Safeway Staff Raise £319 For Maternity Campaign
Safeway Staff were delighted with the response to their home-baking stall to raise funds to support the North Action Group in their campaign to retain consultant led services at Caithness General Hospital.  Staff baked a wide range of items for sale at the stall.  The company also donated store vouchers that were raffled.  Pictured are just a few of the staff who contributed and served on the stall in the morning.   The stall was quickly sold out such was the enthusiastic support from customers in the store.    Many thanks From North Action Group

North Action Group Getting Ready To Launch Huge Letter Writing Campaign
The North Action Group campaigning for maternity services in Caithness are gearing up to prepare a big letter wiring campaign.  The group have already sent out over 600 letters to to businesses in Caithness and Sutherland as well as writing to several politicians and other bodies.  now they are preparing to write to all of the Scottish MSP's individually to ensure that the strength of feeling in the north of Scotland is expressed nationally.  This along with several other local initiatives other parts of the Highlands and Scotland will begin to be co-ordinated via the Internet.   NAG Chairman George Bruce made contact with several groups from around the country at a meeting of the Save Stobhill Hospital Group in Glasgow on Saturday and it is hoped that by widening the campaign to include other areas more focus will be achieved on the issue at the Scottish Parliament.

10 March 04
From NHS Highland Board


The report on maternity services in Caithness from the independent group led by Professor Calder has been published.
A spokesman for NHS Highland said:  "We have now received the report and have placed it immediately onto our website so that the people of Caithness can have direct access to the full report. Professor Calder will be attending the meeting of Highland NHS Board on Tuesday 16th March 2004 to present the report and to answer questions from the Board on the report."

10 March 04
Letter From Amicus AEEU Trade Union (Thurso Branch)
To Malcolm Chisholm MSP
Minister for Health and Community Care
Dear Mr Chisholm,
At a recent branch meeting our members expressed concern about the ongoing review of maternity services within the Highland area and the effect it will have on the existing services provided. Our local unit at Caithness General Hospital is at present under going a review by Professor Calder. It has been suggested that the outcome of this review may lead to the present consultant lead service being downgraded to a midwife lead service. Our members see this as a very unsatisfactory situation for several reasons..............................

10 March 04
Professor Calder's Report In Full

10 March 04
Caithness Maternity Issue To Feature On
The Lesley Riddoch Programme BBC Scotland

North Action Group representative and councillor for Wick West Bill Fernie will be on air live on the Lesley Riddoch programme - BBC Radio Scotland on Thursday between 12.00 and 1.00pm when the topic under discussion will be health services in rural areas in Scotland.   The programme can be heard on BBC Radio Scotland or on the web by following the link above.  Real Player is required to listen to the broadcast live or it can be played back later as the show is available online later.

10 March 04
Caithness maternity services must be designed around the needs of patients and a consultant-led maternity service maintained, Highlands and Islands MSP Mr Rob Gibson said today (Wednesday) after the Calder Report called for it to be downgraded.

Coming on the eve of his Parliamentary debate on the future of the service, Mr Gibson called for local people to unite in support of a consultant led service and target the Executive as part of a campaign to change their centralising culture. Commenting he said:  "Centralisation of maternity services and the closure of the consultant-led service in Caithness will place the lives of mothers and their new born children at risk.

"The Calder report is part of an Executive culture of centralisation. The people of Caithness have to unite to change this culture.  "The disbandment of the four year old Remote and Rural Areas Research Initiative was an ominous sign, now our worst fears are coming to fruition with the proposed downgrading of the maternity unit.

"The total lack of understanding of the geography of the far North and the need of NHS patients is there for all to see. The people of Caithness and Sutherland must now unite to change the centralising culture of the Health Service and Ministers.

"Other nations facing the same issues of remoteness and rurality such as Norway and Canada have successfully designed service around the patients.

There is no good reason Scotland cannot do the same. "Protesting, however, will not be enough and proposals to field a hospital protest candidate at the Euro elections will not change Ministers minds. The only thing that ever forces a change of heart, is the fear of losing their own jobs. We must face them with a stark choice, dump your centralisation plan or else we will dump them."

Debate At Scottish Parliament Live 11 March 5.00pm
click to the main chamber for the debate on the motion put forward by Rob Gibson MSP.

Professor Calders Report On NHS Highland Web Site
Professor Calders Report and the agenda and papers for eh special health board meeting to be held in Wick on the 16th of March are expected to be on the web site some time on Thursday 11 March.  The meeting on the 16th is to be held in the Norseman Hotel, Wick and is open to the public as observers only.  North Action Group members have been invited as have those people who gave evidence to Professor Calder when he visited Wick.  The meeting on the 16th commences at 2.00pm
No decisions will be taken at the meeting.  A debate and discussion will take place on the report.  North Action Group members are to be invited by the chairman to take part in the debate.  North Action Group will meet on Monday 15th March to consider what they should say.

5 March 04
Safeways Staff, Wick To Hold Fundraising Baking Stall
Responding to a letter for support from the North Action Group the staff at Safeways store in Wick have decided to have a Staff Home Baking Stall on Thursday 11 March from 9.30am.  Safeways Store itself are contributing Safeways Shopping Vouchers to be raffled at the Baking Stall on the same day.  Staff said they were keen to to help in a practical way and get involved in supporting the North Action Group campaign on Maternity services in Caithness.  Wick Thistle Football club have already offered a sum of money to be presented to NAG next week.  All funds raised and not used in the campaign will be donated to the League of Friends Of Caithness General once North Action Group winds up.

4 March 04
Rob Gibson Gains Scottish Parliament Debate On Maternity In Caithness
Rob Gibson SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands is to bring the issue of the Caithness General Hospital Maternity Unit to the attention of the parliament on Thursday the 11th of March.  The debate will be available live as a webcast on the Scottish Parliament web site from 5.00pm

His motion (S2M-746*) regarding the under threat Unit which gathered cross party support has been accepted as a members debate.  Mr Gibson said..."This is an important debate as it will give MSP's who care about health services in rural areas an opportunity to put across the point that centralisation of NHS services, whether they adversely affect Wick, Oban or Fort William, is putting the future sustainability and growth of these areas in jeopardy."

"It is important that the message goes to Professor Calder, and those who decide the fate of units such as the Wick Unit, of the importance that a consultant-led maternity unit has for a remote community and that if one goes then many more essential services could follow."

He added ..."It will also be an opportunity to debate ideas and come up with a formula on how the Health Service can best adapt consultants' contracts to serve rural areas in the light of new working time directives.

Rob Gibson's Motion
*S2M-746# Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP) : Maternity Services in Caithness- That the Parliament notes the current review of maternity services in rural and remote communities of Caithness and north Sutherland; believes that no "one size fits all" model will deliver satisfactory solutions across the country; considers that staff shortages and widely differing geographical circumstances have to be accommodated, and further considers that the Scottish Executive should instruct NHS Scotland to draw up consultant contracts so that medical staff gain competencies in both large and small hospitals and therefore fulfil the Executive's pledge that every child in Scotland be given the best possible start in life.

NHS Highland To Hold Additional Board Meeting In Wick Tuesday 16 March
An additional board meeting will be held in Wick on 16 March to consider the report of Professor Calder on Maternity Services in Wick.  Members of the recently formed North Action Group have been invited to attend the meeting.  Professor Calder is to attend the meeting to present his report. 

Calder Report To Be Released To The Public and Press On 11 March
The report by Professor Calder will be made available on 15 March and posted on the Board web site later that day.

North Action Group To Discuss Calder Report Prior To NHS board Meeting
the North Action Group will discuss the report into Maternity services at Caithness General Hospital at its meeting on Monday 8 March  - the day before its members attend the NHS highland board meeting.   A few members of the group are to be allowed to ask questions and some of these will be formulated at the committee meeting.  Public representatives who met Professor Calder during his previous visit gathering evidence will also be asked to attend the NHS board special meeting on 16 March

Highland Council Agrees £40,000 Spending To Research Affects Of NHS Changes In Highland
Highland councillors agreed to the proposed research into possible NHS changes in hospitals in Wick and Fort William and changes to out of hours services by GP's.  The £40,000 will be matched by HIE making a total of £80,000.  NHS highland will co-operate ins supplying information to help the study and the results will be supplied to them along with politicians and others.

Malcolm Chisholm On Radio Highland News 1 March 04
Needs Real player to listen
Interview from Saturday in Inverness when the North Action Group spoke to the minister.

1 March 04
North Action Group Will link Up With Stobhill Hospital Group In Glasgow Next Saturday
Representatives from the North Action Group In Caithness formed to fight the case for retaining consultant led services at Caithness General will travel to Glasgow next Saturday to attend a meeting after an invitation from a similar group fighting a similar campaign to save services at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow.  Links are already being made with other groups such as the Belford Hospital in Fort William.  The North Action Group is leaving no stone unturned and if it means taking the campaign to a national level they are determined to do so.

28 February 04
North Action Group Meet Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm In Inverness
Members of the North Action Group travelled to Inverness by train on Saturday 28 February after requesting a meeting with health minister Malcolm Chisholm.  The group consisting of chairman George Bruce and members Highland councillor Bill Fernie, Martin Duffy and two mothers Kerry Mackenzie and Aelex Bain met with Mr Chisholm at the Palace Hotel, Inverness.  Arriving earlier than expected for the ten minute meeting he stayed talking to the group for 45 minutes and listened to while members outlined the fears of people in the north for the safety of mothers and babies in the maternity side of the hospital but also emphasised the growing fears of many about what would happen to gynaecology patients who also required the services of consultants.

28 February 04
North Action Group Big Banner Creates Media Interest In Inverness
The North Action Group grabbed media attention for their case to retain consultant led maternity services in the north by displaying a huge banner created by Martin Duffy and carried to Inverness by train on Saturday.  In addition Martin and his family had prepared a small child's coffin to symbolise the possible outcome for patients in the north of Scotland and elsewhere if health services are curtailed by the removal of access to consultants as they have been for many years.  The eye catching banner and small coffin were snapped by several local and national photographers representing a range of newspapers and will appear on Sunday and Monday.

27 February 04
Major Impact Study On Withdrawal Of Health Services
In Highland By Highland Council and HIE
Highland Council Meeting On 4 March Will Be Asked To Agree to £40,000 Expenditure
Highlands and Islands Enterprise Will Contribute a Further £40,000

The serious nature of the possible changes to health services in Highland particularly in Caithness General Hospital, Wick and the Belford Hospital, Fort William have been recognised  by the Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  Highand Councillors will be asked to ratify the proposal to carry out this major Impact assessment at their meeting on Thursday 4 March in Inverness
Highland council summarised the research as follows -
Research into the impact and consequences for local communities arising from the potential withdrawal of NHS Services can be commissioned.  such research would be of use within localities and at a pan-Highland level.  Three areas of enquiry are proposed for the research.  HIE seeks to be involved in the research and an involvement from NHS Highland is required.  Contractor capacity and timescales may require the research to be commissioned by direct placement, with Members approval.  To manage the process a cross-service and partner officers group is proposed, reporting progress to a consultative group of elected and appointed members.  an allowance of up to£40,000 is required and is identified within the appropriate budget.  Highlands and Islands Enterprise can fund up to a similar level

27 February 04
North Action Group Features On BBC Radio Scotland News  - Click Highland And Islands News On BBC site
Requires Real Player
Bill Fernie representing the North Action Group featured in a short interview outlining why they were travelling to Inverness to see Health minister Malcolm Chisholm in Inverness on Saturday as the Labour Party conference reaches its final day

27 February 04
Maternity Downgrading Threat Rammed Home As
North Action Group Cancel Battle Bus Trip Due To Severe Weather Conditions
As if to ram home the point about weather and distance in the Highlands the current severe weather has meant the group who were to send a bus full of protesters to Inverness on Saturday 28 February to lobby the Labour Party conference has been cancelled.  A smaller group will go by train as a meeting of ten minutes has been granted by Malcolm Chisholm the Health Minister.  The smaller delegation will making all the points regarding distance, weather and economic impact on Caithness if there is a downgrading of maternity services at Caithness General Hospital.  If anyone else wants to make points to MSP's or ministers especially Labour then you can send emails any time.  

24 February 04
Demonstrators To Go To Inverness On Saturday
28 February
A bus taking up to 48 people will leave from Thurso and head for Inverness via Wick to demonstrate in Inverness to draw attention to the possible consequences of downgrading at Caithness General Hospital.  The newly formed North Action Group is organising this day of action in Inverness.  there will be time for shopping etc.  the new group are also already embarked on  major letter writing campaign to local businesses and medial staff in Caithness.  See inside on how to book a place on the bus to Inverness

12 February 04
A New Action Team Is Formed
Over 100 people turned out on Wednesday night to form a new Action Committee to defend consultant led maternity services in Caithness.  Amongst many suggestions it was acknowledged that the fight might extend to more than just maternity as much more might be under threat if the maternity fight was to be lost. 

8 February 04
League Of Friends Public Meeting
Wednesday 11 February 7.30pm Assembly Rooms, Wick

A What Next Meeting?
The League Of Friends now sees the way forward as uniting everyone in the county who want to retain the level of Maternity services at Caithness General Hospital.  They will be looking for as many suggestions as possible to give to a new Action Team to take them forward.  suggestions made at the meeting on Saturday were asked by that audience to be taken forward to Wednesday nights meeting.  The Saturday meeting did not favour forming an Action Team until the meeting on Wednesday likely to be much larger had a chance to get involved and to ensure only one team presented a united front from Caithness.
The main hall has been booked to ensure that people from all over the county can get in.

7 February 04
Public Meeting Assembly Rooms, Wick
Around 70 people attended a public meeting organised by the Scottish Socialist Party to try to get ideas and agreement as to how action might be taken to carry forward a campaign to maintain consultant led services in Caithness.  MSP Jamie Stone billed as a speaker at the meeting did not make it possibly due to bad weather.  However SSP MSP Carolyn Leckie and councillor Bill Fernie spoke to the audience. Ms Leckie outlined her views of the current situation.  In the morning she had visited the Maternity Unit at Caithness General and had been impressed by the levels of skills and services available at the unit.  A qualified midwife herself it was immediately evident from her speech that she had a very detailed grasp of the serious situation that the people in rural areas find themselves faced with a reduction in maternity services.

2 February 04
JAMIE STONE MSP and CAROLYN LECKIE MSP United On Maternity Issue  - Public Meeting
Saturday 7th February, 2.00pm in Wick Assembly Rooms. Carolyn Leckie is an SSP MSP and is a qualified mid-wife and spokes person on health matters. The public are invited to hear speakers and make contributions.  The meeting may also become the focus for forming the action group suggested by the League of Friends of Caithness General which was to have happened at last week's meeting cancelled due to the adverse weather.

28 January 04
Maternity Public Meeting Cancelled
Due To Weather Conditions

Due toe severity of the weather conditions in Caithness the meeting planned for tonight in the Assembly Rooms, Wick has been cancelled until a later date.

20 January 03
Calder Report Delayed Until April
It seems that Professor Calder's team may not make their final report known until April rather than February. 

16 January 04
Health Motion Debate In Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament debated a motion concerning health services in the West Highlands and Caithness was mentioned in the course of the debate due to the similar issues involved.  The full transcript of the debate is reproduced here for anyone interested in reading what was said by MSP's on Thursday 15 January.

12 January 04
Scottish Socialists Call For Councillors To Resign From Health Posts

The Scottish Socialist Party is calling on Highland councillors to follow the example of council Convenor Alison Magee and resign their consultative positions on the Health Trusts Quangos, and begin the process to democratise the new unitary authority.  These include David Alston (Black Isle North) and Garry Coutts (Beauly & Strathglass)

11 January 04
Alison Magee Highland Council Convenor Resigns From Highland Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
Alison Magee convenor of Highland council has resigned from the post she also held on the Highland Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.  Mrs Magee said that in view of the council stance on retaining services in the highlands and the current reviews into services going on there was a potential conflict of interests.

19 December 03
Highlands MSP fights for Caithness Maternity Service
Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands, tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the safeguarding of maternity services in Caithness.

It follows a busy week for the campaign, which showed its strength on Monday with big demonstrations greeting Professor Calder, the medic responsible for reviewing the future of the maternity service in the area.


The motion suggests a solution to the problem whereby medical staff also need to gain experience in both small and larger hospitals. Mr Gibson suggested a scheme whereby doctors could rotate between hospitals in Caithness, Inverness and Aberdeen.

Commenting, Mr Gibson said:
"This seems to be the only viable solution. The only other proposal on the table till now has been to transport pregnant women over 100 miles, which is clearly unworkable. We need maternity services in Caithness.

"I hope that the Scottish Executive will realise that for sustainability in rural areas there needs to be facilities and services present to keep them thriving. Priority needs to be given to Highlands and Islands areas that are suffering increasing depopulation.

Full text of motion:

S2M-746# Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party) :  Maternity Services in Caithness- That the Parliament notes the current review of maternity services in rural and remote communities of Caithness and north Sutherland; believes that no "one size fits all" model will deliver satisfactory solutions across the country; considers that staff shortages and widely differing geographical circumstances have to be accommodated, and further considers that the Scottish Executive should instruct NHS Scotland to draw up consultant contracts so that medical staff gain competencies in both large and small hospitals and therefore fulfil the Executive's pledge that every child in Scotland be given the best possible start in life.

15 December 03
Crowds Meets Professor Calder's Team For Maternity Review
Crowds awaited the review team as they flew in with folk still shouting he should have come by road to see for himself the journey of over 100 miles.

15 December 03
Professor Calder Held A Short Press Conference
Professor Calder gave a short if somewhat gloomy interview to the waiting press from the BBC, Grampain TV, Local and national newspapers as well as freelance writers and photographers.  He talked broadly about the position regarding shortages of consultants and European Working Time Directives but gave no indications of how his report will reflect local problems.

15 December 03
Another Crowd at Caithness General Hospital
Professor Calder and his team were accused of sneaking in the back door as hsi transport took him around the back instead of coming in the front door where mothers and many other people hasd gathered to show support for retaining services

15 Dec 03
Highland Council Press Conference Sets Out Why Services Are Needed In The North
David Flear area convenor led the conference with George Bruce for the Health Forum adding his weight and experience to the issues that he has been heard stating many times and on radio this morning.  Emphasising the length of the road to Inverness and the dangers in winter he was backed up by David Flear who referred to huge pile of letters in front of him.

15 December 03
Mothers At The Heart Of The Maternity Campaign - Claim Deaths Will Result
The ladies from the League Of Friends and Two Young Mums showed they were united in their defence of local consultant led services being retained in Caithness.  Kerrie Mackenzie and Elaine Boyle both related their stories of the trauma surrounding their children's births.  From the journey to Nine Wells hospital by Helicopter and the surrounding problems to a ling ambulance trip to Raigmore.  both of their accounts were full of the agonising future that may confront many more Mums who might need to be taken south for both maternity and Paediatric services.  There accounts of what was involved confirmed to many what they already knew that any down grading is a sentence of death in their opinion for Mums and Babies in future

15 December 03
MSPs Jamie Stone and Rob Gibson Agree Maternity Is A Cross Party Issue
Politicians of all levels were agreed that
the maternity issue across Scotland needs a solution but that down grading in rural areas cannot be the answer.  With distance again being the main problem and Caithness being one of the furthest away from main hospitals in the south.  Both MSP's and Councillor Flear answered a range of questions mainly on the threats to mothers and babies but also to a lesser extent on how this all might affect the economy of the area.  Pointing to support from the local enterprise company and Dounreay ther was little doubt that people in future would consider whether or not to live in the area or set up business with a lesser standard of health services on offer.  It was thought that a dentist had already made that part of his decision to move and that consultants were leaving Caithness General in anticipation that the Maternity service would be down graded and they were finding jobs elsewhere before they had to.

27 November 03
East Caithness Draws Together On
Maternity Downgrading Threat

The Francis Street club , wick was the scene of unprecedented support for consultant led services to be retained in Caithness.   Councillor Donnie Mackay one of the organisers of the meeting announced the start of the meeting and introduced Phillip Coghill who chaired the meeting.  Almost no other issue could so easily bring together so many people from many backgrounds in the local community.  The threat just three years after the last review of maternity services in Caithness is thought by many to be nothing more than a disgrace with the selection of Professor Calder being no more than a hatchet man given terms of reference for an enquiry that can only reach the conclusion that quality services at consultant level can only be provided outwith the county.

25 November 03
Public Meetings
Wick -
Francis St. Club, Wed 26th Nov, 7.30pm
Thurso -
Town Hall, Friday 28th Nov, 7pm.

To find out the views of people in Caithness about what they want to see done.  Although no proposals are yet made regarding services many people fear that Maternity services in particular  are in line to be downgraded in the north.  Other parts of Scotland face similar restructuring.

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

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.

Select topic from drop down menu near bottom of page

A Brief History Of Midwifery
NHS History
NHS Explained

15 September 03
On Caithness Committee Agenda

4 September 03
The Convener of The Highland Council’s Caithness Area Committee, Councillor David Flear, has joined the call for health bosses to consider upgrading maternity services at Caithness General Hospital.

Councillor Flear intends raising the matter at the next Area Committee meeting on Monday 15 September and expects to send a firmly worded response to the Highland Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, who are currently reviewing maternity services provided in Wick as part of a Scotland-wide review.

The Area Committee will also seek a meeting with Professor Andrew Calder, the man leading the review on behalf of the Executive, who is visiting Caithness later this month.

Councillor Flear has been advised that the Trust are looking at an option to maintain the status quo at the 11-bed unit or to downgrade the service with consultant services moving to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness.

He believes that an option of upgrading the service to reduce risk should be added. It is one he believes will have significant support in the local community.

The matter surfaced on Tuesday at a meeting of the Trust in Wick, when The Highland Council Convener Councillor Alison Magee, who is a board member, expressed her concern that the matter had been raised at the meeting without prior notification and that there was no option for expanding services.

Councillor Flear said: "I am grateful to the Convener for highlighting this matter. Like her, I had not idea that the review of maternity services was going to be raised at this meeting. I agree entirely that the public must be fully involved in this review process. The process must be open and transparent. And the options being considered should not omit an investment in local services by providing more beds.

"I will be raising the matter at our next area committee meeting and will be ensuring that our voice is heard when Professor Calder comes north later this month.

"It is only two years since the last review of maternity services at Caithness General Hospital and the arguments that were presented for retaining and developing the unit are as valid today as they were then. I have no doubt that this is a matter that will race to the top of the political agenda and one which will generate a huge amount of community interest in the county."

Send Views Etc
David Flear - Area Convenor for Caithness is keen to hear from anyone with views about services in the Caithness General Hospital and will be conveying the information to Professor Calder when he visits Caithness.

The Demonstration Day
Timetable - Monday 15 December 2003
7.00am, 8.00am, 9.00am - possibly throughout the day
George Bruce Interviews on Moray Firth Radio News
12.00 Noon
Demonstration Begins At Caithness General Hospital
Toot Your Horn Campaign Begins
Motorist are being asked to toot their horns as they pass the demonstration at Caithness General
Professor Calder Team Arrives Wick Airport
Press Conference At Wick Airport
Professor Calder Team Arrival Expected Caithness General
Council Press Conference At Wick Town Hall
Area Convenor David Flear will lead the press conference with Jenny Spence, League of Friends, Jamie Stone MSP. George Bruce, Caithness & North Sutherland Health Forum and two mothers.  Other councillors and interest people likely to attend.
Second Demonstration at Caithness General Hospital
another demonstration to allow for people who were working at Noon Demonstration

15 December 03
Maternity Gets Good Airing On Radio and Television
The visit of Professor Andrew Calder to Wick on Monday 15 December had a big profile as it gained mentions on Moray Firth Radio, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Scotland Television News.  Repeat mentions on several news broadcasts are ensuring the issue is highlighted.  With both Grampian and BBC television crews and local and national press expected to attend the two press conferences today the evening broadcasts and tomorrows morning papers are expected to cover the issue homing in on the issues and the demonstrations supporting retention of consultant led maternity services in rural areas. like Highlands.

14 December 03
George Bruce - Maternity Interview On MFR Radio - Monday 7.00am, 8.00am, 9.00am

Tune in to Moray Firth Radio to hear George Bruce chairman of the Caithness & North Sutherland Health Forum being interviewed about the current Maternity Review to coincide with Professor Calder's visit to Caithness General Hospital.  Listen on radio or on the web by going to Moray Firth Radio Web site and click on Listen.  the broadcast may be on later in the day as developments happen in Wick with the various press conferences and demonstrations at the Caithness General Hospital.

13 December 03
Young Mums Groups Ready For Demo
A variety of groups that involve young mothers is likely to arrive with pushchairs and prams on Monday.  Several groups from around Caithness intend to be represented at the Noon Demonstration with several intending to attend both the noon and 6.00pm demos.  Anyone who has seen the pictures of Baby shows in the county might realise the potential for push-chair jams around the hospital.  A number of play groups will be out in force demanding that Maternity services are regarded as a top priority for the Scottish Executive.  As more stories circulate around the group by mothers of there experiences of awaiting transfer to Inverness to the consequences of families trying to cope with the journeys to Inverness or elsewhere.  Thee mounting protest in families looks likely to galvanise more support than almost any other cause in the county as it crosses all the political boundaries.  Young mothers seem as determined as their more senior relatives in the League of Friends that this their cause.

13 December 03
League Of Friends Confirm Second Demo at 6.00pm At Caithness General Hospital
As local feeling continues to rise on the Maternity Services issue in Caithness confirmation has been given that a second demonstration will take place at 6.00pm at Caithness General Hospital on Monday 15th.  The first demo will happen to coincide with the arrival of Professor Calder and his team as part of the review.  But as support continues to pour in for the League of Friends campaign it was confirmed that in order to allow people who are at work during the day to make their views known by attending a demonstration the second one would go ahead at 6.00pm.

13 December 03
"We Don't Want Our Maternity Service To be Invernational"
Posters in Caithness supporting the demonstrations at Caithness General Hospital on Monday 15 December have turned a current Television advertising campaign for flights from Inverness airport on its head.  Whilst the TV ad shows how great it is that you can now fly to many places from Inverness the posters bring home the point that few in the north want the same service for delivering babies up to 130 miles away.

13 December 03
David Flear Gets Biggest Mail Ever On Maternity Issue
Caithness Area Convenor David Flear is receiving the biggest correspondence he has ever received on any topic by a huge margin.  Mail is arriving every day by post and email is constantly popping in to add weight to his arguments.  Mail is arriving not just at his home address but to the Council Offices in Wick from where it is being passed to him.  Councillor Flear intends to pass this correspondence to Professor Calder as one way of showing the level of support for maternity services being kept at their current levels in the county.  But Councillor Flear is a strong advocate for improving services and thinks that the health authorities should be looking at improving services and not considering downgrading.

13 December 03
Highland Council Press Conference
Caithness Convenor David Flear will lead a Highland Council Press Conference at Wick Town Hall on Monday 15th at 1.00pm time in the Wick Town Hall. 
Councillor Flear will chair the briefing.  He hopes to have available for interview Jamie Stone, MSP, Jennifer Spence, the campaign leader and chairman of the Caithness General Hospital League of Friends; George Bruce, chairman of the Caithness and North Sutherland Health Forum and two mothers, who will speak to the benefits of consultant-led services at Caithness General Hospital, Kerry Mackenzie, Thurso, and Elaine Boyle, Wick.

13 December 03
National Press Likely Professor Calder Press Conference
Professor Calder is to hold a short press conference at Wick Airport shortly after he arrives.  with interest in the visit now coming under intense scrutiny he is likely to face a barrage of questions from reporters.  The John O'Groat Journal devoted most of the front page to the subject on Friday and had a highly supportive editorial on the front page showing the massive closing of ranks on this issue.

13 December 03
Toot Your Horn Campaign On Demo Day
Wick is likely to be somewhat noisier than usual from 12 Noon as a "Toot Your horn " campaign is gets underway for drivers passing the demo on Monday 15 December.  Drivers are briwing asked to toot their support as they drive past the demo taking place outside the Caithness General Hospital.

13 December 03
League Of Friends Profile Higher Than Ever
Jenny Spence and her fellow fundraisers find themselves at the forefront of a growing campaign to retain services in the Caithness General Hospital.  From a small fund-raising group normally donating items to the hospital they find themselves rocketing towards national status as they galvanise local groups and support into one campaign to retain and improve services at their local hospital.  This small group of ladies has in a very few weeks lifted the campaign to heights previously unknown taking with them politicians local and national, a huge range of voluntary groups and the general public, galvanising the pent up anger from previous investigations into their campaign.  With a zero budget (they have refused all monetary assistance) they have depended on community spirit and determination to drive the campaign forward.   Few campaigns have risen so quickly and with so much involvement at public meetings.  these ladies have read the mood correctly and taken appropriate action swiftly and with purpose.  They are ordinary wives, mothers and grandmothers.  The establishment perhaps needs to seriously consider not just the mumbo jumbo of risk assessment, financial management but the human factors before they come to any decision on the long term future of services like Maternity in the far north.  Experts have been proven wrong on many other topics - and mothers instincts often proved correct in the face of medical opinion.  to a great extent we are not talking about clinical factors - it is about the will to provide quality services in rural areas.   The League Of Friends has seen the Writing On The Wall for the hospital and perhaps for more wide ranging consequences to follow.   A cornered mother in the wild often fights back and it should be remembered they often bite back.  An organised group of them look even more frightening.....................


12 December 03
Maternity Services Caithness
Issued By Highland Health Services
A group of external assessors will be carrying out an independent clinical assessment of maternity services in Caithness next week.  They will be meeting with local health professionals, the Scottish Ambulance Service and with a group of community representatives during a two day visit.
Professor Andrew Calder, who is leading the clinical assessment team,  says:
"I have now received a great deal of correspondence regarding the assessment visit. There will be a considerable amount of information to review and it would be premature to respond to these letters individually until my colleagues and I have had time to examine them in detail. I would like in the meantime to thank people for writing to me to express their views."
Nigel Hobson, Director of Quality and Nursing, says;
"I am confident that the assessment team have an open mind and will consider all the evidence before them with the utmost professionalism and objectivity.  We have asked the Professor to ensure that the resulting report is written in a way that is easily understandable as we intend this to be made public."

12 December 03
Another Obstetrician Resigns At Caithness Maternity

Nigel Hobson, Director of Quality and Nursing, confirmed a report by the BBC today;
"I regret to confirm that I have just been informed that Dr Harry Olorunda, Consultant Obstetrician in Caithness General Hospital, has now accepted a job at another hospital. We have not yet, however, formally received Dr Olorunda 's resignation, but would expect this in due course.
This news, in addition to the impending departure of Dr Pranab Sarkar, comes at a particular time, which clearly underlines the urgent need for a robust plan for the way ahead for maternity services in Caithness.
It may be some time before we are in receipt of Professor Calder's report, but I give my assurance that we will do everything in our power to support the current service, until such time that we have clear advice for the best way of delivering a sustainable future service."

6 December 03
High Noon At Caithness General - Monday 15 December
An unusual site in Caithness is to take place on Monday 15 December at 12 Noon when a demonstration organised by The League of Friends will take place outside the Caithness General Hospital.  The demonstration ( a rare thing in Caithness) is to show the strength of feeling about the possibility of downgrading the Maternity services in the county.  The demo will coincide with the visit of Professor Calder and his team to Caithness where many people have objected to the fact that he will flly in and not use an ambulance from Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to get a true picture of the journey required by pregnant mothers should they require to go south due to lack of facilities in A downgraded unit in Caithness.  with feelings running high and organisations and individuals coming from Thurso and other parts this could be one of the biggest protests on the streets of Wick for quite a few years.   Meanwhile Convenor David Flear is still gathering in letters and emails on the subject to present as evidence as to local feelings on this matter.

2 December 03
HIGHLAND COUNCIL Welcomes Change in Direction for West Highland Health Services Project
  - 5,900 people  - three quarters of all households wrote letters
The Highland Council has warmly welcomed a decision by NHS Highland to rethink plans for future acute hospital services in the Belford Hospital,  Fort William.
As a result of unprecedented representations from throughout Lochaber, the Board has  agreed that the next phase of the West Highland Project will bring together a Solutions Group, which will involve key parties to agree the best possible solution for sustainable and affordable acute services for the Belford..
Local GP and Vice Convener of The Highland Council Dr Michael Foxley was asked to address the Highland NHS Board during their discussion in Inverness today......................

30 November 03
Thurso Meeting Packs Town Hall
A large audience turned out for the meeting organised by the League of Friends of Caithness General Hospital.  Speakers included - Jamie Stone MSP, David Flear Caithness Area Convenor, George Bruce, chair of Caithness Health Forum, and councillors Bill Fernie and Graham Smith.  Councillor Donnie Mackay who has been assisting the League of Friends set up the meetings introduced Phillip Coghill a local farmer as chairman for the evening.
All speakers essentially took the same line in their speeches emphasising different points but giving a clear message that they were fully behind the local community and the League of Friends bid to ensure that Professor Calder, the Highland Health Board and the Scottish Executive are in no doubt that local services are what are wanted and not remote "Birthing Factories" as Councillor Smith termed the so called Centre of Excellence" idea...........................................more

27 November 03
Rob Gibson MSP Supports Campaign
For Maternity Services
"Use Continental Practice To Support Caithness Maternity"
SNP list member for the Highlands and Islands Rob Gibson welcomes the turn out of last nights (Wednesday 26th of November) public meeting about the downgrading of Wick Maternity Ward.  He will be present at the 15 December meeting with Prof. Calder in Wick.  Rob pledging his support to the local community said…
“Centralisation of the service in Raigmore would not only jeopardise lives it would also jeopardise the future sustainability of the area."
He went on to say…
“The downgrading would create a vicious circle as it would make the area less attractive to young people who wanted to stay here or move here and could also put off employers from investing here.”
He added….
“It would be non-sensical if the trend is replicated throughout the Highlands as other European countries are sensitive to retaining and supporting population in communities far from their capital cities."