Councillors call for return of out of hours GP services in St Andrews

Councillors in north east Fife have called for the out of hours GP service to return to St Andrews.

It was controversially cancelled in April as health bosses struggled to find cover – forcing patients and families to travel to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.

That sparked a huge backlash in several communities across the region.

Out of hours GP services were temporarily removed in Glenrothes, St Andrews and Dunfermline in April, but the closure programme was  then extended until January 2019 after it was heard that there was no interest in a job advert for the service.

A public consultation has been ongoing to propose permanent closure of the services, and a decision will be made in December.

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At a special committee meeting this week, Cllr Linda Holt, Conservative for East Neuk and Landward, argued to have services reinstated to the coastal town.

She said there was a strong support for the service.

In her motion, she asked the committee to note “the concern by GPs in St Andrews and the East Neuk  that  requiring patients to travel to Kirkcaldy will compromise medical care and patient safety.”

She was backed  by Dr Gerard Smyth of Blackfriars Medical Practice in St Andrews, who wrote: “As GPs working in NE Fife practices, we feel that this represents an unacceptable loss of local service that will threaten patient safety and impact most profoundly on our elderly patients and on families with children.

“In the event of the St Andrews base being completely closed, it is inevitable that patients will delay in contacting medical services or, once being advised to attend in Kirkcaldy, will delay not do so.

“This will put patients at risk and it is inevitable that significant harm or deaths will occur as a result.”

Dr Smyth added: “A significant portion of patients who contact NHS24 as requiring medical contact within one hours, particularly in the evening and overnight period.

“The fact that it is impossible for either a patient to travel to Kirkcaldy within an hour or for a doctor in Kirkcaldy to travel to visit the patient obviously causes great concern.”

But partnership director Michael Kellet told councillors at the meeting that no decisions had been made yet and “every option was still on the table”.

He added: “We are continuing to work with GPs, but we have to put in place an arragement that is part of a system to support primary care GPs out of hours right across Fife.

“We can’t have one part of Fife adequately provided for and nothing in the rest of Fife. We need to be part of the whole system that deals with the needs of the population.”

A decision on out of hours services will be made on December 20.