A £1 million pilot project that gives people with terminal illnesses the chance to die at home is to be axed at the end of the month.
Nurses fear the loss of Fife’s Hospice At Home service will have a huge impact on the dying and could worsen the region’s already challenging bed-blocking figures.
Hundreds of families have been supported by the initiative since the two-year pilot was launched by public health minister Michael Matheson in February 2014.
Run by Marie Curie in partnership with NHS Fife, nurses said it was regarded as invaluable by those who used it and helped unblock hundreds of beds in the region’s hospitals.
Despite this, the health board has refused to provide the funding needed to allow the service to continue beyond the end of the month.
The board had been asked to stump up 50% of the money needed, while Marie Curie would have provided the rest.
Both organisations have said terminally ill patients will continue to be supported in Fife on their discharge from hospital but one nurse told The Courier a major benefit of the project would be lost.
“We step in to allow patients to be fast-tracked out of hospital where there is no care package in place,” she said.
“An assessment can take weeks but we step in on the same day to allow the NHS to unblock beds and care for patients in the community.
“ I’m so surprised something so successful is not being allowed to continue.”
MSP Claire Baker said closing the “vital” service was both short-sighted and counter-productive.
“NHS Fife struggles with bed blocking and achieving waiting time targets, so to stop a service which has been judged to be successful in supporting people to be cared for at home is hugely disappointing,” she said.
“I urge NHS Fife to reconsider the decisionand will be raising the matter with the chief executive and the Scottish Government.”
A spokesman for NHS Fife said: “One facet of this programme has enabled the discharge of terminally ill patients to be fast-tracked.
“Whilst this element of the initiative will not continue beyond the end of the pilot, the board will continue to support such patients within the Health and Social Care Partnership in Fife.”
Caroline Paterson, Marie Curie Regional Manager Scotland North, said: “We’ve been able to learn a lot from the pilot in Fife andit’s provided learning that we can apply to Marie Curie services going forward.”
Planned Marie Curie nursing and helper services in Fife remain unaffected.