Petition launched following closure of Fife hospital's palliative care ward
Claire Baker, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, is urging people to support the call for the health board to reopen the hospice, which closed at the beginning of February. She also wants to highlight why local hospice care is important ahead of a decision being taken on the future of palliative care delivery in Fife later this year.
Ms Baker has launched the petition this week having been seeking reassurance on the future of the Dunfermline hospice since 2020. The hospice at Ward 16 of Queen Margaret Hospital first closed at the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020 as part of moves by NHS Fife to protect the most vulnerable patients.
Ms Baker says at that point the health board insisted the closure was temporary. When the service reopened in January 2022, she said there was no indication this was only on a temporary basis. The ward closed again last month following the completion of the refurbishment of the Victoria Hospice in Kirkcaldy.
The Labour MSP said: “The Queen Margaret Hospice has provided vital and valued end of life care to many families and it is vital that we retain specialised care which supports people in end-of-life situations across the region.
"While some people want to be cared for at home, that’s not an option for everyone and we need to ensure all patients have a choice about where end-of-life care is delivered. Palliative care should be delivered as locally as possible but it will be very difficult for a lot of people in West Fife to travel to and from Kirkcaldy, especially when they have a loved one who is dying.
"I have been calling for reassurance on the future of the hospice since 2020 and when I wrote to NHS Fife at the end of January this year they gave no indication of the imminent plan to close it. The lack of transparency around its closure is completely unacceptable and with the health board due to consider the future of palliative care delivery in Fife later this year I am worried the hospice will never reopen.
"I am calling on NHS Fife to reopen the hospice at Queen Margaret and commit to keeping it open so that families caring for their loved ones can continue to be offered end-of-life care in a setting that works for them.”
NHS Fife has said the move was announced on its website and councillors were also briefed. The board said work to determine the long-term future of in-patient end-of-life care was ongoing.
Lynne Garvey, head of community care services with Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We continue to see a sustained reduction in the demand for in-patient end-of-life care, with very many people wishing instead to be cared for at home. Between 2019 and 2022 the average waiting times for an in-patient hospice bed in Fife halved, from an average of 3.4 days to 1.7 days.
“For those who are unable to, or who would prefer not to receive palliative care at home, there continues to be access to inpatient palliative and end-of-life care within wards five and six at Queen Margaret Hospital, in addition to Victoria Hospice.”