"MAJOR concerns" have been expressed about the downgrading of an established Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

Councillors at South Lanarkshire Council have unanimously agreed on a motion mandating officials to write to the Scottish Government to seek answers about the future of the award-winning unit at University Hospital Wishaw.

We previously reported 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.

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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The proposals would see the unit in Wishaw downgraded from offering level three to level two care.

The motion was proposed by cllr Richard Nelson and seconded by cllr Celine Handibode. 

It received cross-party support. 

Cllr Handibode said: "I am greatly concerned about the downgrading of neonatal services in Lanarkshire.

"There are many questions and too few answers about the future of this award-winning unit. 

"Major concerns have been raised about these proposals across party lines and I would call on the Scottish Government to listen to the strength of feeling about this issue in South Lanarkshire and independently review these proposals."

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Cllr Lynsey Hamilton said: "The Scottish Government is praising the Wishaw neonatal intensive care unit as being award-winning while simultaneously considering downgrading it.

"They need to take a pause, listen to the local community and the families who have depended on this unit.

"Our Council believes the best quality of care should be available to families locally here in Lanarkshire."

Glasgow Times:

Lynne McRitchie, who gave birth at 23 weeks, previously told the Glasgow Times the decision to downgrade care at the neonatal unit 'made her blood run cold'. 

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."

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.

Lynne started a petition calling for the decision to be reversed.

The 43-year-old explained: "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."

Professor Jann Gardner, NHS Lanarkshire chief executive, said: “We know the considerable disappointment that is being felt as a result of Lanarkshire not being named one of the specialist intensive care units following the Best Start report earlier this year.

"We have been working extensively with our dedicated staff locally as well as with colleagues regionally and nationally on this issue.

“We are absolutely committed to providing the highest standard of neonatal care to babies and families in Lanarkshire and will continue to work on this issue with their interests at heart."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “No neonatal units are closing as part of these plans. Local neonatal units, including Wishaw, will continue to provide care to the vast majority of babies who need it, including a level of intensive care.

"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.”

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