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External review team inspects maternity services

21st May 2016

An external review team visited NHS Highland this week to examine paediatric and neonatal services at Caithness General Hospital in Wick and Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

During the visit, the team met a wide range of clinicians and managers at both hospitals as well as staff from Scottish Ambulance Service.

The team is made up of Dr Brian Magowan, obstetrician and gynaecologist, NHS Borders; Dr Jane Macdonnell, consultant paediatrician, NHS Borders; Mrs Nicky Berry, head of midwifery, NHS Borders; and Prof. Chris Kelnar, retired Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology, University of Edinburgh.

At Caithness General they visited the maternity unit to gain an understanding of facilities and equipment available to staff.

The move follows the tragic death of a baby in Caithness General Hospital in September 2015 that triggered a Significant Adverse Event Review (SAER).

The SAER, carried out by NHS Highland - and which also included external experts - made eight recommendations on 18th March 2016, including: ‘A public health-led review of the service, supported by expertise external to NHS Highland must be undertaken to inform the future configuration of maternity services in Caithness General Hospital.'

Dr Hugo Van Woerden, NHS Highland's director of public health, who is leading the public health review overseeing the SAER to the report stage, said: "I am pleased that we have been able to secure such a strong external review team. The key purpose of this external inspection is to satisfy both the local population and the NHS Highland board that the current systems and processes in CGH can ensure the safe care of newborns. The review will consider the unique challenges faced by the hospital and its system of obstetric care without co-located paediatric expertise, or paediatric support available within 30 minutes."

He added: "We have also been gathering feedback from local families and if anyone would like to get in touch with any further comments about this aspect or the wider review, I would ask them to contact Maimie Thompson, NHS Highland’s head of PR and engagement, on 01463 704722 or email"

The inspection by the external team is looking specifically at arrangements to provide safe care for newborns for Caithness mums and forms part of the wider review being carried out by NHS Highland. Since the tragedy, NHS Highland has put in place a series of interim measures at CGH until the report is published.

This wider review will consider the safety of neonatal care provided in Caithness General. In conjunction with current evidence, literature, guidelines and practice, the findings will inform recommendations that will be made to ensure that the model of maternity and neonatal care provided for people in Caithness and Sutherland is safe.

While the wider review is primarily focused on the safety of the current provision of neonatal care at Caithness General, it is possible that the findings may result in implications for the future configuration of other services.

A national review on maternity and neonatal services is also being held.