New out of hours service set to roll out in Fife next month

St Andrews Community Hospital.
St Andrews Community Hospital.

A new out of hours GP service is set to roll out across Fife on November 4.

A decision to redesign the service was made after health officials raised concerns that the current model was not running safely and sustainably, due to a lack of staff.

The redesign will see a full 6pm-8am service run from Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline, and Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy.

A limited service will be provided in St Andrews.

Glenrothes, which previously had an out of hours service, will be closed.

Nicky Connor, director of the health and social care partnership, told members at the Integrated Joint Board (IJB) on Friday: “We are on track to start the new service on November 4. This has been taken forward with staff, and we’re already seeing rotas in place.

“The redesign was about having a safe and sustainable model, and we’ve seen a multi-disciplinary team put in place. We’re also developing the skill set of our current medical staff.”

A new transport policy will also be in place, meaning anyone who can’t get to an out of hours centre if an appointment is needed, will be provided with transport.

Lisa Cooper, lead nurse in the out of hours service, was keen to stress that this would not be a means tested policy and would be available to anyone who asked for it.

However, members of the St Andrews OOH group said they remained unsatisfied with the redesign for north east Fife.

Dr Angela Anderson, chairman, said: “We have been keen and enthusiastic to get involved with the redesign for St Andrews, but our group feels angry and shut out of any meaningful discussions.

“We are aware of the local problems and can help to come up with creative solutions for that area.

“But we haven’t been involved in any meaningful talks, and since then we’ve seen even more cuts to the St Andrews service.”

Dr Anderson added: “We have big concerns. The university contributes £298.3m to the Fife economy, and tourism £600m annually. We feel we have a duty of care to those people and have a big concern about how things are moving forward.”

Balmullo Community Council member Peter Lomas added: “People live on a 24/7 basis and they expect the service they support as taxpayers to reflect that.”

However, north east Fife Councillor, Tony Miklinski, said that they needed to see the system in place, and working, before they agreed to start making changes to it.

He added: “We have been getting a lot of push back from the St Andrews community. Is there an element of confusion over us saying we would engage and consult but they believe the community is in a position to further change the key elements we’ve already approved?”

Ms Connor said the plan was “to implement the model that was previously agreed” – but she added they would continue to engage with all community groups and already had meetings set up to discuss concerns.

She added: “This is a clinically led redesign of the service to ensure that safe and sustainable out of hours care can be provided across Fife. We all have confidence in this new service.”

Emma O'Neill, Local Democracy Reporting Service