A petition calling for the reinstatement of out-of-hours GP services in St Andrews has gained almost 3,000 signatures in less than a fortnight.
The online petition launched by North East Fife MP Willie Rennie on August 30, aims to persuade Fife Health and Social Care Partnership to continue overnight emergency cover at St Andrews Hospital.
GPs branded the move an unacceptable loss of local services that would threaten patient safety and impact most profoundly on elderly people and families with young children.
Those who have signed the petition include a woman who said the service saved her life and another who described its loss as potentially catastrophic.
In April, the service was removed from the town, as well as from Glenrothes Hospital and Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline, and centralised at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.
The contingency, prompted by a concern for patient safety amid a shortage of GPs and nurses, was initially due to last three months but was later extended to January.
A consultation on the long-term future of community health services, including out-of-hours GP cover, is continuing and the public has been urged to make its views known.
Proposals include centralising overnight cover from midnight to 8am at Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, or at Kirkcaldy only.
There is no option to retain services at St Andrews or Glenrothes.
Local people can attend meetings at Waid Community Campus, Anstruther on September 20 and in St Andrews Town Hall on September 24, both starting at 6.45pm, to discuss the issue.
Mr Rennie said the online petition gained more than 1,500 signatures within a day and was now being backed-up by paper copies circulating in the east Neuk and St Andrews.
“It’s really taken off,” he said.
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“Students, the university and the community council have organised the paper petition and are writing to all the GPs to see I they can get their patients to sign up.
“Everybody I have spoken to about this has expressed a clear view that it should not happen and there is a growing anger. There are some really powerful stories.”
Fife Health and Social Care Partnership director Michael Kellet said there had been no option other than to take the measures to ensure patient safety.
“Fife, like many other areas, is experiencing the impact of shortages of key staff,” he said.
“In response we have put in place the contingency measures to ensure a safe and reliable service.
“In addition, we must look at solutions to secure safe and sustainable services in the immediate and long term.
“This requires transformation of traditional health and social care ways of working and service models.”