Of course reducing out-of-hours services will put already struggling A&E services under even more pressure, and it is shocking that this is only now dawning on managers as Kirkcaldy’s A&E buckles.
I know both the ambulance service and First Responders have also been feeling the strain caused by the after-midnight closure of the OOHS service at St. Andrews Hospital. The staff who man these three services are doing a heroic job.
But what about the patients in this supposedly patient-centred NHS? Many are put off from going to A&E in Kirkcaldy at all.
Recently I suffered a severe burn to my hand which I was unable to soothe at home so I called NHS 24 for an OOHS or Minor Injuries Unit appointment. As it was close to midnight and no other service was available, I was told to go to A&E in Kirkcaldy. I could not face the trip to Kirkcaldy and waiting half the night to be seen. My husband would have had to accompany me, which would mean a sleepless night for him as well as me, and make dealing with work and family the next day that much harder.
What about those with more serious conditions who suffer more serious damage, or even death, because they cannot get to Kirkcaldy, or decide they cannot face the trek and consequent wait?
Without a fully open, properly staffed out-of-hours service at St Andrews, NE Fifers will continue to face anxiety, suffering and even death as they are forced to rely on A&E at Kirkcaldy.
Meanwhile any cost-saving achieved by slimming down the St. Andrews OOHS will be gobbled up by the increased cost of greater A&E provision and hospital admittance.