Anger as NHS Fife proposes permanent closure of Dunfermline hospice
Claire Baker, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, is urging a reconsideration of the decision and calling for full public consultation on the matter after what she deems ‘a lack of transparency around the process’.
The Hospice at Ward 16 at the Dunfermlie hospital closed on a temporary basis during the pandemic, but NHS Fife repeatedly stated it was not a permanent closure. After reopening in January 2022, the ward was closed again in February 2023 with all patients and beds removed from the ward.
Ms Baker says that through these periods she sought reassurances from the health board over its plans for the hospice. Following the closure earlier this year she wrote to the chief executive of NHS Fife at the end of March asking to be kept updated with developments and specifically for information on when a decision on the future of palliative care delivery would be reached. Ms Baker says she has yet to receive a response.
However, a statement issued to the press this week by NHS Fife indicates a decision is to be taken this month on a proposal which includes the permanent closure of the Dunfermline hospice.
Ms Baker said: “I am angry and disappointed that a decision to permanently close the hospice at Queen Margaret appears to have been reached behind closed doors. I asked NHS Fife to keep me informed throughout this process and specifically for information on when consultation and a final decision would take place, but my correspondence has been ignored and the recent briefing for elected members seems little more than box ticking as it becomes increasingly clear a decision had already been taken.
"The lack of transparency from NHS Fife around the whole process is very concerning. Their press release talks of ‘a comprehensive programme of engagement’ but for most people the news of this permanent closure will come as both a shock and a disappointment. I am urging NHS Fife and the IJB to postpone any decision at least until proper public consultation has taken place.
“I recognise the need to offer patients and their families a choice in terms of where they wish to be cared for, but for that to be a real choice everyone in need of palliative care must have access to it in a setting that works for them. Removing the option of hospice care in Dunfermline is restricting that choice and the remaining end of life care beds are not a comparable setting to the specialist hospice ward.”
In a press release issued earlier this week NHS Fife said proposals outlining the future direction of the region’s specialist palliative care service will be presented to the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s Integration Joint Board and the NHS Fife Board at their meetings later this month.
The proposals will seek approval to continue the extended model, which has been embedded over the last three years and has shown to better meet the needs of the population. This model included the move to a single hospice during the pandemic allowing many specialist palliative care staff to provide outreach care in the community.
The creation of the palliative care outreach team means the service can now care for as many as 60 patients at any time across Fife’s communities, care homes, hospitals and hospice.