Scotland’s Health Secretary has been urged to halt moves to permanently close the GP out-of-hours service in St Andrews.
Student leaders and the area’s MSP have called upon Jeane Freeman to step in and reinstate the primary care emergency service at St Andrews Community Hospital
Ms Freeman will visit St Andrews University on Wednesday.
Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s proposal to provide out-of-hours GP services from Victoria Hospital, in Kirkcaldy, alone or from there and Queen Margaret Hospital, in Dunfermline, has prompted outrage.
A warning has been issued that the move would endanger people from north-east Fife, many of whom would face a long journey to Kirkcaldy if they need to see a doctor through the night or at the weekend.
Paloma Paige, president of St Andrews Students’ Association, said: “It is clear to us that the closure presents a serious threat to the health of all residents in north-east Fife, particularly those who are already vulnerable, including students and the elderly.
“We fully back a call for the Health Secretary to halt Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s plans to close the service.”
North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie said: “The Health Secretary has the power to order the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership to cease their plans.
“She should take the opportunity whilst visiting St Andrews to order them to stop.
“People in the town are furious that we have a relatively new hospital but the health authorities are stripping services out of it already.
“We have a unique mix of elderly people and young students combined with a rural and remote hinterland.
“Local GPs are prepared to step up to provide a local service but the health partnership only plan to provide the service out of Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline.
“The Health Secretary should step in before it is too late.”
Mr Rennie will hand over a petition signed by thousands of people later this month.
He will be joined by East Neuk community councillors who have led a campaign gathering views about the proposals on 3,000 postcards which will also be presented.
Daryl Wilson, one of those behind the postcard initiative, said the East Neuk would be the area hardest hit by the closure.
She said: “We face the furthest journey, the roads are rural and especially through the winter people will be reluctant to drive at night to Kirkcaldy.
“Many people I have spoken to have said they wouldn’t take the risk and would phone an ambulance instead or hold off until the morning and then there will be a huge impact on GP surgeries.”
Postcards are available in pharmacies and GP surgeries in the East Neuk and at a stall at Anstruther Co-op this week.
The out-of-hours services at St Andrews and Glenrothes hospitals were closed temporarily in April due to a staff shortage.