A woman who gave birth at 23 weeks says the decision to downgrade care at a Lanarkshire neonatal unit 'made her blood run cold'.

Lynne McRitchie has spoken out after the Scottish Government’s Maternity and Neonatal Services revealed a plan to reduce the number of Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) across Scotland from eight to three.

She said: "It’s a real loss to the neonatal world.

"It’s a real loss to parents, but ultimately it’s a real loss to babies who are born so prematurely or poorly."

The report states the three units would be located in the Royal Hospital for Children at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, Simpson's Centre for Reproductive Health at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Aberdeen Maternity Unit.

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Glasgow Times:

No neonatal units in Scotland will close but, as a result, the award-winning neonatal unit at University Hospital Wishaw will be downgraded from offering level three to level two care.

Lynne, from East Kilbride, gave birth to her son Innes at the hospital on March 4, 2019.  

Innes spent a total of four months being cared for by the neonatal team, who were crowned Neonatal Team of the Year 2023, before finally getting home a week after his original due date of June 23, 2019.

The 43-year-old says it made her "blood run cold" when she heard about the plan to downgrade the level of care offered at the unit and is calling for the decision to be reversed.

Glasgow Times: Newborn InnesNewborn Innes (Image: Lynne McRitchie)

She said: "When I became aware of the decision to downgrade the level of available care, it really struck me how terrifying it is when you’re told your baby is going to be born so prematurely or so poorly that they need intensive care support.  

"I cannot imagine how we would have felt if we had then been told that best case scenario was to transfer to Glasgow to receive that care.

"It adds a whole new level of stress and trauma into what is already a horrific experience for parents and for families."

Mum-of-two Lynne, who also has a son called Callum, says it was important for her to be near family and friends for support while Innes was in hospital.

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Glasgow Times:

She explained: "The thought of being further away from home having to travel, not having my support network around me, it would have been terrifying if somebody turned to me and said ‘you need to be transferred’.

"At the time you’re going to say yes, you’re going to do whatever needs to be done to save your baby, but in hindsight, it would just have added a whole new level of trauma."

She continued: "In the hospital, we built such strong relationships with the team, and I just think in those larger units how in the world do you build those relationships?

"I have got no doubt for some families that will be the right thing, but my sense is that for families like ours, it won’t be."

Glasgow Times: Innes with Lynne's wedding ringInnes with Lynne's wedding ring (Image: Lynne McRitchie)

Earlier this month, Lynne started a petition calling for the decision to be reversed.

So far, it has gained more than 10,200 signatures.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Local neonatal units, including Wishaw, will continue to provide care to the vast majority of local babies who need it.

"The decision to move to three national Neonatal Intensive Care Units has been made in line with strong evidence and advice from expert clinicians that specialist care will improve health outcomes and save lives.

"These three units will offer specialist and complex care in fewer centres for the most pre-term and sickest babies."

Judith Park, NHS Lanarkshire director of acute services, said that the health board will work with the Scottish Government's recommendation over how neonatal services are delivered. 

She added: "Our dedicated staff will remain committed to providing the highest standard of neonatal care to babies and families in Lanarkshire."

You can see Lynne’s petition at change.org HERE.