A Fife MSP is ‘very worried’ about the future of Queen Margaret Hospice in Dunfermline, which closed temporarily 14 months ago.
Labour’s Claire Baker has called for assurances it will reopen, saying patients must have a choice over where they receive end of life care.
The hospice at Queen Margaret Hospital shut in April last year as part of the NHS response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Patients receiving end of life care are instead being cared for in their own homes.
But Mrs Baker says the lack of clear commitment to reopening the “vital and valued” service is very worrying.
Fife Health and Social Care Partnership said last year the move was temporary to protect the most vulnerable from the effects of the virus.
However, the service at Queen Margaret Hospital remained closed even as lockdown eased and other health services began to remobilise.
The partnership now says it is developing plans to “build on lessons learned from delivering services during a pandemic”.
Mrs Baker first raised concerns about the hospice’s future in September when a decision was made to close the Wellesley Unit in Buckhaven.
Nine months later, she has again called for a commitment and has asked for details of plans to reopen the hospice.
“As part of the response to the pandemic, NHS Fife temporarily closed Queen Margaret Hospice, but over a year on we are still waiting to hear when it will reopen,” she said.
The lack of a clear commitment to its reopening is very worrying.”
Claire Baker MSP
“The hospice provides vital and valued end of life care and the lack of a clear commitment to its reopening is very worrying.”
The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP added: “People in end of life situations should be able to make a choice as to where they want to receive that care.
“Having family members cared for at home is not an option for everyone.
“We need to ensure that patients and their families can be offered end of life care in the setting they choose.
“I have written to NHS Fife seeking information on when the hospice will reopen and hope that we will see palliative care services delivered at the hospice again soon.”
Focus is on ‘the right care in the right place’
Palliative care services in the region are delivered by the health and social care partnership on behalf of NHS Fife.
Division general manager Lynne Garvey says the focus throughout the pandemic has been on providing the right care in the right place.
“Palliative care delivery has had to change to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic and to ensure that our patients and their families are kept safe and are able to spend valuable and quality time together at home, rather than admitted to hospital,” she said.
Our focus has been on providing care in the community,”
Ms Garvey said inpatient palliative and end of life care is still available at Victoria Hospice in Kirkcaldy and at community hospitals across Fife, if deemed clinically appropriate.
“However, our focus has been on providing care in the community, with patients being cared for and families supported in their own homes by our specialist care teams,” she said.
Ms Garvey stopped short of an assurance that Queen Margaret Hospice will reopen, however.
She said: “As the lockdown measures continue to ease, like all services across the health and social care partnership, the Fife palliative care service is developing plans to remobilise and build on the lessons learned from delivering services during a pandemic.”