A new consultation on reopening hospital maternity services in the west of the region has been branded “a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money”.

Dumfries and Galloway Health and Sociial Care Partnership’s Integration Joint Board (IJB) is asking for views on two options for maternity services in Wigtownshire.

An independent review earlier this year came up with two proposals, one of which was continuing with the existing model of a community hub for low-risk home births.

But the preferred option was supplementing the existing offering with on-call birthing for low risk births at Galloway Community Hospital’s Clenoch Centre, which has been closed since 2018 due to staffing shortages.

And Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson has questioned the need for the consultation, which starts on Monday and runs until February, when he feels it is obvious what the result will be.

He said: “This is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money and you really have to consider whether the IJB is, in fact, fit for purpose.

“It is quite clear that elected members and the general public including mothers demanded a change from the status quo.

“Why are we still consulting on two options when the current situation is simply not acceptable?

“It is also extremely concerning that these consultations will last three months followed, by a further four month delay to come up with a decision.”

The independent review was carried out after public pressure for maternity services to return to the hospital.

Tory MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries Finlay Carson
Tory MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries Finlay Carson

Since the Clennoch birthing suite was closed, there have been a number of cases of mums going into labour and giving birth on the A75 on their way to hospital in Dumfries.

A report for the IJB earlier this year revealed the two options going out for consultation received almost equal ratings from the independent co-chairs and midwifery expert “however, this score was inclusive of NHS Dumfries and Galloway staff”.

Using the hospital for low risk births “was the preferred option of the professional experts independent to NHS Dumfries and Galloway”.

It was felt a consultation was needed as the hospital option’s score was only slightly higher and no options had been put to the public to consider.

But South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “I haven’t spoken to a single person in the community who thinks the status quo of travelling to Dumfries for an in-hospital birth should be the way forward.

“The local NHS should just get on with delivering the preferred option.

“ The decision to carry out yet another consultation is just more dithering and delay.

“At this rate we could be looking at more than six years between the temporary halt in services until their reinstatement and even two years alone between the start of the review and the recommendations being implemented and that’s just not good enough.”

Lyn Durrant, general manager for women, children and sexual health, said: “Just to be clear, and contrary to some reporting, neither of these options would represent a full birthing service in Wigtownshire.

“High risk pregnancies have always been advised to take place in Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, and this would remain the advice.

“It’s important that everybody takes the time to understand all the considerations here, including the fact that both options would only be for low-risk pregnancies and that this is about 23 per cent of all pregnancies in the area.”

The consultation will begin on Monday and runs until next February. Full details and an online survey can be found at https://dghscp.co.uk/maternity-consultation/