CHILDCARE DILEMMA: Much-needed Isle of Skye midwife could leave the island due to a lack of provision

Hannah and children Ada and Fergus

A key healthcare worker on Skye has said she could be forced to leave the island due to a lack of childcare provision, describing the situation as “archaic.”

Hannah Fraser (29) moved to Skye seven years ago to work as a community midwife and has loved every minute of the job which she says is “wonderful”.

However, speaking to the Free Press, Hannah revealed she may have to move from her home on the island so she can access the appropriate childcare for her two kids without having to sacrifice her career. 

Hannah and her partner, who live in Portree, have two children.

Hannah is currently on maternity leave but due to the nature of her job, she has already faced considerable challenges in balancing family commitments while also fulfilling her role as a midwife.

“My wee girl, Ada, is two and a half and my little boy Fergus is just six months,” Hannah said.

“My partner works away – two weeks on and two weeks off. For the two weeks he is away we are soloing it. 

“His parents are a great help but they both still work, so as much as grandparents are brilliant, with the age of retirement changing all the time childcare isn’t as available as it used to be.”

Explaining her work pattern, she said: “I don’t have set days because of the number of people in our team – I have to do an on-call commitment as well, which was extremely difficult.”

Hannah praised Portree Nursery as brilliant for its help in accommodating her work but said the greatest obstacle was now fulfilling her on-call obligation.

“I really struggled with covering the on-call commitment because my mother-in-law is a 30-minute drive away. If there is a baby coming imminently, you can’t ask someone to wait half an hour for your childcare to arrive in the middle of the night.”

While Hannah is currently off work on maternity leave, she is fearful over whether she will be able to continue to work on the island in the long-term.

“My biggest concern is when they go to school. There are no childminders and there is no after school provision for children, which is really shocking,” she said. 

“There can’t be too many employers willing to have part-time mothers starting at 9.30am and finishing at 3.30pm and having all the holidays off.” 

She added: “I grew up in an after-school club, my mum was a single parent.”

“They collected us from school, took us to the church hall and did our homework with us, and mum would show up at 5.30pm – that was the only way she was able to work – and for me it was a brilliant experience.”

Last month the Free Press reported that a Skye GP was set to leave the island due to the lack of childcare provision.

Hannah said: “When Dr Clancy told me at the baby group one of the GPs was leaving as there was no childcare, I thought ‘that’s mad!’

“Typically, it seems to be mothers who have to step back from their careers to fill the childcare gap.”

Assessing her family’s options, she said: “If I were to take a job at Raigmore then I could do 12-hour shifts across three days a week.

“I have family in Inverness that are retired, and there is after-school childcare that my children would be able to go to.

“We are losing essential workers on the island, such as midwives, GPs, and people in hospitality.

“These sectors are already thin on the ground with staff, so to have such a fragile community with no childcare provision seems archaic.”

Highlighting the loss she would feel if she had to leave Skye, Hannah said: “We are understaffed here but I think the service we provide here is gold standard – we are able to give women and families a lot of time and attention here that might not be the case in the city.

“I would really hate to leave, especially knowing how much another midwife absence could affect the service here. It is a wonderful job, and I love it.”

Article by Adam Gordon