Health chiefs in Fife has been accused of short-sightedness amid claims they relinquished land earmarked for the expansion of the St Andrews Community Hospital to pave the way for a new Madras College.
After investigations into the history of the site, the Confederation of St Andrews Residents’ Association (CSARA) said it was “incredible” NHS Fife had taken decisions to prevent expansion of the hospital given the likely demands on health services over the coming years.
Documents obtained by the group suggest Fife Council wrote to NHS Fife in 2007 requesting that land should be reserved for further expansion, with the intention it would provide a buffer zone to protect the hospital from further expansion.
But it appears that has changed and the council is pressing ahead with plans to build the new Madras at Pipeland.
“It appears incredible that the health board decisions should rely on such short-term thinking given that a school built up against its eastern boundary would prevent expansion of this important health facility over the 70 years (or more) life of the school,” explained CSARA chairman David Middleton.
“NHS Fife have also said in correspondence with CSARA that they expect that community care will reduce the need for expansion of the hospital.
“This seems to be a very optimistic assessment. Over 1,000 new houses are planned in St Andrews alone over the next 20 years, and many more than 1,000 in the area served by the hospital.
“St Andrews will experience an ageing population with more need for medical services and the university will inevitably expand.
“NHS Fife’s decision not to plan for expansion of the Community Hospital in St Andrews is not consistent with its undertaking to provide room for expansion of the Adamson Hospital in Cupar, which like St Andrews and surrounding area, is also expecting a large increase in population.”
Mr Middleton added NHS Fife had formally objected to the planning in principle application for the school but had been “induced” to withdraw its objection by the offer of replacement car parking places within the school grounds.
“The parking places to be provided will not deal with the current congestion acknowledged in NHS Fife’s letter of objection, let alone the inevitable increase in traffic,” he continued.
An NHS Fife spokesperson admitted the option to expand eastwards was incorporated in early documents to remove some of the site constraints from the designers, but said this land was purchased by NHS Fife and incorporated in the present layout.
And on the Madras issue, the spokesperson conceded: “The health board has a responsibility for ensuring the highest possible quality of care for patients, staff and visitors and, therefore, the health board raised initial formal concerns with Fife Council in relation to traffic flow and site safety.
“However, following what we consider to be satisfactory assurances from Fife Council, NHS Fife withdrew its formal objection.
“Importantly, NHS Fife is neither an advocate nor an opponent to the proposed Madras development and will accept either outcome.
“St Andrews Community Hospital is a modern facility and its use has been designed to evolve in line with the changing healthcare needs of the local population.
“We are confident the facility meets these needs and will continue to do so for many years to come.”