Fed up community councils across north east Fife have demanded the retention of the full out-of-hours service at St Andrews Community Hospital.
Members of 10 local community councils met with officers from the Fife health and social care partnership to air their views about plans to cut out-of-hours provision in St Andrews, which would leave either Kirkcaldy – or a mixture of Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline – as the only centres available.
Health chiefs were left in no doubt about local people’s anger on the subject, with community activists even threatening to challenge any decision to close the St Andrews service through the courts.
Graham Lang, secretary of Ceres and District Community Council, summarised the strength of feeling in north east Fife about the effect the proposed changes would have.
“We were absolutely united in calling for the return of a full service to St Andrews,” he noted.
“It was clear that staffing problems elsewhere in Fife lay behind the emergency closure of the midnight to 8am service at St Andrews Hospital, and had led the IJB to think that sacrificing the St Andrews service would free up staff for out-of-hours centres in Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline.
“An out-of-hours service focused on urban centres as a one-size fits all model does not work in north east Fife, which, unlike the rest of Fife, has a rurally dispersed population with exceptional proportions of the elderly, students and tourists.”
Fife’s health and social care partnership has emphasised no decision has been made to close the St Andrews urgent care centre, and has pledged to write to all community councils to keep them updated.
Mr Lang added: “We were pleased to hear that the partnership had been working much more closely with GPs and the communities in north east Fife to come up with ways of keeping the St Andrews service.
“It looks like we have the GPs willing to work in the out-of-hours service based at St Andrews Community Hospital and a new flexible set-up underpinned by a multi-disciplinary pool of urgent care practitioners was proposed by the local community councils as the way forward.
“This could become a model of best practice which other areas in Fife could learn from.”
Last month, Fife’s health and social care partnership took the decision to continue centralising out-of-hours services in Kirkcaldy for a further six months to ensure patient safety as staff shortages continued to bite.
“Our patients are our main priority, keeping them safe and providing a quality service,” director Michael Kellet said.
“Recruitment of GPs and nursing staff remains a focus for us and feedback from the recent Joining Up Care consultation will help to inform how we move this forward.”