The announcement this week that the out of hours service at three hospitals in Fife, including St Andrews, will be closing and everyone will be directed instead to the Victoria in Kirkcaldy has created a furore.
Members of the public rightly feel let down as there was no public consultation – there was no consultation or discussion with councillors either – and anxious that what is being termed temporary will turn out to be permanent.
Asked to comment by a local paper, I was particularly concerned about the impact on East Neuk residents, some of the most geographically isolated in Fife, and the way the announcement was made as it hardly indicates a service on top of its brief.
I’ve already been contacted by people upset and worried about losing the out of hours service in St Andrews. This is particularly unfair on East Neuk residents, and I don’t think NHS Fife has considered their plight. It’s at least a 40-minute drive to Kirkcaldy and that’s without roadworks on the A915. If you can access a bus – and lots of East Neukers can’t – it can take two hours. Shutting St Andrews undoubtedly means more hardship and suffering for East Neuk residents needing out of hours medical attention.
This is the result of poor workforce planning by the SNP government at Holyrood which desperately needs to get a proper grip on the NHS. So does NHS Fife: closing the services without warning, let alone consultation, reveals a management forced into firefighting and lightning cuts to deal with crises in care. Both nationally and locally our NHS needs sustainable planning which is realistically costed.