PEOPLE in north Fife are said to be disappointed by the news that Netherlea Hospital in Newport is to close at the end of this month.
NHS Fife confirmed this week that admissions to the hospital had now ceased and plans were in place to discharge all remaining 2patients by the end of the month.
The statement said in-patient facilities at St Andrews’ new community hospital would be developed to allow for greater capacity, while visiting services like podiatry and physiotherapy, currently provided at Netherlea, will be moved to the GPs practice in Newport from December 1.
It also said a wider plan to develop day assessment services for the wider CHP areas will “start building up by February.”
However, the speed of which the closure is to take place — just two months after a meeting was held to discuss how the hospital fitted in with the NHS’s ‘re-shaping care for older people’ people review — has been criticised.
A spokesperson for Newport, Wormit and Forgan Community Council said: “There is great disappointment in the community that our views and concerns have been brushed aside by the CHP.
“The speed with which the closure is to take place suggests that the decision to close Netherlea was made before consultation with the local community began.
“There are also worries that present resources and staffing levels, particularly the number of care workers, are not adequate to meet the needs of older people being cared for and supported at home.
“Indeed, at this week’s community council meeting, we heard once again about a local family experiencing difficulty in arranging an elderly relative’s discharge from hospital to home care.”
A spokesperson for the Friends of Netherlea said it was also deeply saddened by the decision and was concerned that the new ‘community based’ enhanced care packages would not be in place before the hospital closes.
“We are concerned that the new system is a long way off being implemented,” said the spokesperson.
“We have heard the patients requiring the level of ‘step down’ care currently provided by Netherlea will be admitted to St Andrews Community Hospital, but we understand there will only be four additional beds there.
“We think this could lead to bed-blocking at Ninewells.”
The other concern cited by the Friends group is the difficulty local people, particularly those without transport, could face visiting relatives in either St Andrews or Cupar.
Councillor Tim Brett said he had now written to the the CHP with a series of questions relating to the provision of new services.
He said: “I am very disappointed by the news and concerned that the new arrangements have not yet been put in place.
“It had been the local community’s understanding that this would be done before Netherlea closed.”
In reponse to the concerns, NHS Fife said a review of occupancy rates and a changing pattern of demand showed in-patient capacity is north east Fife will be sufficient.
“When Netherlea closes the new beds at St Andrews will be opened with all Netherlea staff also transferring to the hospital,” said a spokesperson.
“On completion of the building works in January, the Adamson Hospital will provide six more beds than are currently available at its decanted location in Stratheden Hospital.
“Health and social care teams across Fife have been working together to ensure that people are not admitted to hospital unneccessarily, and that there are alternative options available for those who need assessment and rehabilitation in community settings.
“In the Newport area there will be additional qualified nursing staff and support workers to support the integrated community assessment support service.
“The release of staff from Netherlea will contribute to these developments.”
The spokesperson added that teams in Fife and Tayside would be working to minimise delayed discharges or ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals.