THE future of a north east Fife community hospital is hanging in the balance as health officials seek to transform the way elderly people are cared for.
Netherlea Hospital in Newport could close as part of a scheme that will see more patients treated at home.
NHS Fife this week confirmed a review into the 10-bed hospital is under way.
A spokesperson for the organisation said: “Netherlea Hospital has for many years provided a valued part of our overall services.
“However, the increasing range and complexity of care needed by people being admitted from hospitals such as Ninewells, from care homes and even from supported care at home is an increasing challenge to a 10-bed unit.
“The majority of patients do not have continuing medical care needs and are largely in transition to their own homes or other care settings.
“There are no long-stay residents.”
Netherlea — founded in 1948 as a maternity hospital — is home to six acute GP beds and another four for elderly in-patients.
It also houses district nurses, community psychiatric nurses and physiotherapists, among others.
The state of the 100-year-old building was cited by NHS Fife as a reason for potential closure.
Tay Bridgehead councillor Tim Brett suggested improvements to other hospitals may have sparked the move.
He said: “It is likely that some of the older people who are currently in-patients at Netherlea will have to go to either St Andrews Community Hospital or the Adamson Hospital in Cupar to be looked after.
“Others will be looked after at home.
“The closure may be linked indirectly to the new community hospital in St Andrews and the refurbishment of the Adamson, as the review of in-patient beds may indicate there is no longer a need for Netherlea.”
Fellow local councillor Maggie Taylor urged officials to make sure local people are not adversely affected if the hospital closes.
She said: “We do appreciate that there is a need for the NHS to move with the times and modernise its services, but local people have great affection for Netherlea and the service it provides.
“We will want to ensure any services proposed to replace it can be accessed by people locally and will be as good as or better than the ones currently available at Netherlea.”
Vicky Irons, general manager of the Glenrothes and North East Fife Community Health Partnership (CHP), said that while changes to in-patient services might seem “daunting”, the review was “the right thing to do in the interests of patients and the population”.
NHS Fife pledged that staff affected by changes would be redeployed.
The CHP has been invited to the next meeting of Newport, Wormit and Forgan Community Council in Upper Blyth Hall on July 11.
Councillors Brett and Taylor would be pleased to hear from any locals with concerns about the future of Netherlea.