Health secretary to investigate St Andrews’ out of hours concerns

St Andrews Community Hospital.
St Andrews Community Hospital.

The Scottish Health Secretary has said she will look at the concerns regarding the out of hours service in St Andrews, ‘with some urgency’.

MSP Jeane Freeman was asked about the issue by MSP Willie Rennie at Holyrood last week, after campaigners warned that the St Andrews service could still be in danger of closing.

The Fife Health and Social Care Partnership has been accused of seeking to impose a model with reduced hours and an unsustainable staffing model which puts patient safety at risk.

“I would be very disappointed indeed if what seems to be a genuine, community-devised, community-led solution to problems with out of hours service provision in St Andrews is in any sense now in jeopardy, whether because relationships have broken down or for any other reason,” said Ms Freeman.

“I will certainly look at the matter with some urgency and ensure Mr Rennie and other members whose constituencies are affected are informed of what I uncover and the steps that we might take to resolve any difficulties that exist.”

Mr Rennie welcomed Ms Freeman’s response, adding: “We have worked hard with the staff at the partnership. But the relationship between the partnership and the local campaigning group seems to have broken down. They fear that the partnership is setting it up to fail. I’m therefore pleased to hear the health secretary will look into these issues as this much anticipated service is invaluable to local communities.”

Dr Angela Anderson, chair of the St Andrews Out of Hours Group, also welcomed Ms Freeman’s response.

Balmullo Community Council has now issued a participation request, seeking to be involved in discussions about the future of the service. Chair Peter Lomas said: “Our aim is to concern ourselves with every detail of the service, to ensure that out-of-hours urgent care in north east Fife meets the needs of the people of the area; is of the highest quality; is adequately and securely financed and staffed; and is publicly effective, being firmly understood as part of the panoply of healthcare provided by the Scottish NHS.”

The partnership said it has provided an update to the Scottish Government.

A spokesperson added: “We have met with members of the Out of Hours action group. A communications group has also been established and eight members of the public will be joining this group including two representatives from the Out of Hours action group.”