Fight for Wishaw Hospital neonatal unit is taken to Scottish Parliament

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The fight to stop the downgrading of the neonatal intensive care unit at University Hospital, Wishaw, was taken to the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Thursday).

The Scottish Government is proposing to downgrade five of the eight Level Three neonatal intensive care units in Scotland, leaving only three – at Glasgow’s Sick Kids Hospital, Edinburgh’s Simpson Memorial and Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

This would see the other five centres, including Wishaw, being downgraded to level two. That in turn would mean any baby born in Scotland prematurely – below 27 weeks and 800 grams – would be stabilised and transferred after 48 hours to one of the specialist centres.

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The move has caused great concern among mums whose babies have been treated at Wishaw, which won the UK-wide Neonatal Team of the Year Award from the Neonatal Nurses Association this year.

The Wishaw Neonatal Warriors have taken their fight to the Scottish Parliament.The Wishaw Neonatal Warriors have taken their fight to the Scottish Parliament.
The Wishaw Neonatal Warriors have taken their fight to the Scottish Parliament.

Lynne McRitchie, whose son Innes (4) was born at Wishaw in 2019 and featured in the first series of the BBC’s Tiny Lives programme, was so incensed she launched a petition in August. So far, it has gathered 16,962 signatures.

Along with fellow mums Tammy Johnstone-Little, Monica Sheen and Angela Tierney, Lynne also formed the Facebook group Wishaw Neonatal Warriors which now has 702 members.

And with the support of MSP Jackie Baillie, who brought a motion to Parliament to stop the downgrading of the unit, the mums staged a rally outside Parliament yesterday at 11am.

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Lynne said: “The health minister, cabinet secretary and MSPs have been invited to meet us after First Minister’s Questions.

“Wishaw is the only unit that is led by neonatal consultants and the awards it has won speaks volumes about the service it offers.

“We have three main concerns – NHS Lanarkshire was not represented at any of the implementation groups when the plan was devised; Glasgow and Edinburgh have already said they would struggle to add more parent accommodation, meaning mums and dads would have to stay in a B&B or hotel; and these tiny babies being transported by ambulance to hospitals many miles away from home.

“Innes is doing really well now but had my son been born under these proposals, there’s no way he’d be here.”

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Tammy, from Lesmahagow, believes the same would be true of her son Kai, born at 24 weeks and five days, who celebrated his second birthday on Monday.

She said: “The chance of brain bleeds and cerebral palsy greatly increases if these micro-prem babies are moved. I wasn’t even allowed to touch Kai for 72 hours and couldn’t hold him for about a month – there’s no way he could have been in ambulance transport after 48 hours.”

The mums will be staging a Hands Around the Hospital event at the King George V Park, adjacent to the hospital’s car park, at noon on Friday, November 17, World Prematurity Day.

South Lanarkshire Council is also fighting the downgrade, with a motion being passed to write to the Health Minister calling for a full independent investigation into the decision-making process.

The motion stated: “This would result in NHS Lanarkshire, the third-largest health board, losing an essential service for babies and families.”