Following the public meeting on the Joining Up Care Consultation at Waid last night, the three East Neuk and Landward councillors, John Docherty, Bill Porteous and Linda Holt have appealed to the Director of the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership Simon Little to come to the North East Fife Area Committee to brief councillors about the closure of the out-of-hours service at St Andrews Hospital.
The councillors said:
“A packed meeting at Waid last night was united in its opposition to the proposed loss of the out-of-hours service at St. Andrews Hospital. The meeting, which was supposed to include workshops on the general redesign of community hospitals and intermediate bed care, was derailed by residents’ fury that the consultation document omitted the possibility of keeping the St Andrews service and had ignored public pleas to include it as an option. They called the consultation a sham and accused the Partnership of a done deal.
Residents also criticised the consultation form, saying it was so complicated that it would put people off. Since the main way of responding to the consultation was via a website, this discriminated against people who lacked computer access or were not digitally literate. In particular, older residents, who will be among the hardest hit by the St Andrews closure, and who are concentrated in the Neuk, are being denied a voice.
Closing the St Andrews service faces East Neuk residents with the longest travel times and the worst public transport connections in Fife to reach an alternative hospital. This is not a fair, equitable or locality-based way to organise service provision. Cllr Docherty questioned whether full Equality Impact Assessments, which are designed to protect specific groups from being disproportionately affected by service changes, had been carried out.
Four local GPs were also highly critical of the Partnership. They said they had not been consulted and claimed that the Partnership’s reason for closing the out-of-hours service – a lack of staff which made it unsafe – was not accurate, as they were willing to volunteer. They stressed that the closure represented a cut in primary care which would burden other healthcare providers, such as the ambulance service, and would be less safe for patients.
Doctors and residents were united in calling for the Partnership to reconsider ways of keeping the St Andrews service open, by, for example, liaising with local GPs.
The Director of Fife Health and Social Care Partnership Simon Little has twice appeared before the Glenrothes Area Committee to brief councillors about the closure of the Glenrothes service, but has never come to the North East Fife Area Committee to discuss the situation at St. Andrews. Given the very high level of concern in St Andrews and surrounding wards, and the many outstanding questions that remain about closing the out-of-hours service, we are appealing to Mr Little to come to the next meeting of our Area Committee. We are asking the Convenor of the North East Fife Area Committee to issue a formal invitation. We hope that Mr Little will then be able to brief us on the work he has promised to do to look at keeping the St Andrews service open.”