A proposal to permanently close Dunfermline’s hospice while expanding palliative care in the community has been given the go-ahead.
Members of Fife’s Integration Joint Board (IJB) say they are “absolutely convinced” the decision is the right thing to do for the people of Fife.
They say it will mean many more people being cared for in their own homes as they near the end of life.
And it will offer more choice and flexibility for patients and their families during a difficult time.
However, Labour MSP Claire Baker branded the move “a real blow for the people of Dunfermline and West Fife”.
And she has now called on NHS Fife to put a stop to the plan when it meets next week.
She said: “The removal of this vital and valued service has real consequences for patients and families who are left without a local hospice service.
“For those seeking care in a specialist setting, it will mean additional stress and burden of travel to Kirkcaldy at what is already a very difficult time for families.”
Palliative care still available in Dunfermline
Hospice care in Fife was previously provided at both Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy and Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline.
However, a move to a single hospice was forced on health chiefs during the Covid pandemic to ensure patient safety.
And the service was transformed to offer more care in the community.
The result is up to 70 people a day can receive care, rather than 19 under the previous arrangement.
And fewer are choosing to go into hospital or a hospice.
However, palliative care beds will still be available at community hospitals across Fife, as well as at Queen Margaret.
Palliative medicine consultant Dr Jo Bowden said: “Queen Margaret Hospital is still very much a centre of excellent palliative care.”
Hospice waiting time has halved
An attempt by Labour councillor Graeme Downie to delay the decision was defeated.
He called for a full public consultation and more information on transport, staffing and patient choice.
But head of community care services Lynn Garvie said: “I can truly say, having delivered this model over the last three years, it’s coming to the IJB with absolute evidence of improvement.
“There are many more people benefiting from specialist services than before.
“The specialist palliative care needs of Fife are being met much more quickly.
“Hospice availability is greater than it’s ever been and the waiting time has halved, despite the reduction of in-patient beds.”
She added: “There would be significant risk in reverting to the previous model as the people of Fife would no longer have access to the specialist care required.”
Questions remain around public consultation
Claire Baker said she still had reservations, despite the assurances given.
More than 2,300 people have signed her petition against the Dunfermline hospice closure.
She said: “I fully support the need to deliver at-home end-of-life care for those who want it.
“But providing real patient choice means doing this alongside specialist hospice care.
“There remain questions around the lack of proper consultation.
“Moving to close a valued local service like the Queen Margaret hospice without proper consideration, including seeking the views of the wider community, is just not acceptable.
“I am urging NHS Fife to put this plan to permanently close the hospice on hold.”