ON a freezing cold January afternoon in 2017, expectant mother Pranjali Christian felt her contractions start. It was four weeks before her due date and she tried to dismiss them as false labour pains – commonly known as Braxton Hicks – as she went about her day in her hometown of Thurso, on the north coast of Scotland.

But it got harder to ignore the increasingly intense pain and by 8pm that evening, worried that something was “really wrong”, she phoned the midwife, based in Wick, a half-hour drive away.

In November 2016, NHS Highland took the decision to downgrade the consultant-led maternity unit at Caithness General Hospital in Wick, to a midwife-led facility. By December, 24-hour cover by obstetricians had ceased — with all cover phased out by April 2017.

“I was there [at the meeting when the decision to downgrade was made], and I predicted the impact on our obstetric and gynaecology services,” Kirsteen Campbell (below) of the North Highland Women’s Wellbeing Hub told The Ferret.

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