Councillors to review Fife GP out of hours service after one year

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A call has been made to review the decision to close the out of hours service in Glenrothes after one year.

It was backed by Fife Council after the Integrated Joint Board finally decided on the road ahead for the overnight service.

After several delays, it agreed that there would be full provision in Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, while St Andrews got limited provision and the service was removed entirely from Glenrothes.

Now councillors want to review the changes after one year.

The changes – a result of a lack of GP cover for all towns – sparked huge outcry in several Fife towns.

Glenrothes councillor, Altany Craik, called for the review.

He said: “In 2015, Lindsay Roy MP and Tricia Marwick MSP led a campaign to prevent the closure of the out of hours service at Glenrothes Hospital.

“Fast forward five years and a shortage of GPs meant that the service had to go into contingency hours until staffing levels could be delivered.

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“Through a series of reports, consultations, public meetings, the causes of the contingency measures were explicitly and repeatedly stated – a lack of GPs willing to work the service, and an inability to recruit them to the service.

“A ‘Scotland wide issue’ as it was always cited. Unfilled vacancies across practices, a shortage of nurse practitioners, a global shortage of GPs.

“Putting the out of hours into contingency was meant to be a short term solution, not a permanent closure. I was deeply disappointed at the decision to close the service in Glenrothes.

“Our communities feel let down and our residents will continue to press for it to be reopened. As Fife councillors we have to stand up for a communities.”
He said his motion calls for a review of the service after a year with a referral to the scrutiny committee, adding: “It is the least we can do for our communities.”

In the debate which followed, Cllr David Alexander, co-leader of Fife Council, proposed an amendment to the motion, calling for a review of the reconfiguration of the service after one year, with a view that Levenmouth and Cowdenbeath could be given an out of hours service, as well as returning the provision to Glenrothes.

He also called to write to Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to end the “pension trap” which sees many GPs refusing to work the service as it takes them over the tax charges for exceeding their pension allowance limits.

Cllr Alexander said: “The lack of GPs having an impact on the service is not the main reason.

“The main reasons are the out of hour working hours, the new generation want a better work-life balance and the lure of travelling abroad.

“That change had nothing to do with the failure to plan for the workforce, but the pension changes put forwards by George Osbourne.

“I do hope that one day we see the reinstallation of the Glenrothes out of hours service, with an expansion to Levenmouth and Cowdenbeath.”

Cllr Craik responded: “If this was about pensions and tax, that’s what we would’ve been talking about for the last two years, but it wasn’t. I don’t think our GPs do function purely for cash – I’m sure money is important, but I don’t think they do it for the money and its unfair to suggest they do.”

He concluded: “I would like to see the out of hours reopened, but I’m not going to tell the Integrated Joint Board to reopen it if there is not the staff to do so. That is why I think the review is the most appropriate way forward.”

Cllr Craik called for a roll call vote, which resulted in the motion passing 37 to 24.