Out of hours closure: MSP turns up heat on Fife health bosses

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A Fife MSP has told health bosses to ‘‘come clean’’ over their plans for out of hours services across the Kingdom.

Jenny Gilruth’s call came in response to a robust defence by Fife Health and Social Care Partnership of its controversial decision to close OOH services in Glenrothes, St Andrews and Dunfermline and centralise them at the Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy.

The three-month temporary plan was launched after running into staffing issues and is due to end in July.

But it has sparked a huge backlash in all three communities.

In St Andrews, the university has expressed its concerns, while people in west Fife have also spoken out.

In Glenrothes, the issue runs deep – five years ago the town successfully fought to save the OOH service at its hospital, and plans are in hand to stage a second campaign to force a U-turn.

Ms Gilruth raised the issue directly with the First Mnister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Health Secretary, Shona Robison, in Holyrood last week, and has secured a parliamentary members’ debate, on the issue.

She has also demanded answers from the health care partnership which mad the call to temporarily centralise the services.

She said: ‘We now have clarity that the decision to close Glenrothes Hospital’s out of hours was taken by the director of the partnership with his senior leadership team.

“I asked, specifically, if the partnership has conducted a health inequalities impact assessment. This was a key recommendation from the Scottish Government’s recent review of Out of Hours across the country. That assessment has not happened.

“I have written to Healthcare Improvement Scotland to request this now happens as a matter of urgency as I have serious concerns about patient safety being compromised.

The MSP further highlighted the Government’s own statistics for this year, which show that people are much more likely to use out of hours of they’re over 75 - or under five.

She also questioned the process the partnership used, stating: “It needs to come clean.

“This temporary closure is meant to end in July. We are now being told of a public consultation which is to begin in June. If that public consultation goes ahead, retrospectively, it will mean a potential further closure until September. Any public consultation which happens now will be compromised. 

“I will be writing to all members of the Integrated Joint Board to call on them to vote against these proposals on May 22. The people of Fife deserve an honest opportunity to feed in to a consultation – that is not being given.

“We are told this closure needed to happen due to staff shortages. It is now for the Health and Social Care Partnership to show Fife politicians exactly what they’ve been doing to recruit for these vacancies.’’