University has ‘grave concern’ over closing of out-of-hours service in St Andrews

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The University of St Andrews has said it has ‘grave concern’ over the decision to close the out-of-hours service at the town’s hospital.

Fife Health & Social Care Partnership announced earlier this month that it would be closing the service at three Fife hospitals, between midnight and 8am, for a three month period.

It means Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital is the only one in Fife offering those services.

In a letter to Dr Alan McGovern, clinical director (West Division), Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, principal professor Sally Mapstone calls on Mr McGovern to consider the population of north east Fife when reviewing the pilot period.

She says that Victoria Hospital is “simply innaccessible for most students faced with an emergency at night”.

Professor Mapstone said that very few students have access to a car and public transport is extremely limited at that time of night, making it very difficult for them to get to Kirkcaldy.

She adds: “The recent decision effectively removes access to out-of-hours assessment and care for around 900 young people, the majority of whom are teenagers and many of whom are already vulnerable.”

Professor Mapstone adds: “Whilst stressing the University perspective, we are also mindful of others in our community with additional needs. Notably, there is a significant local geriatric population.

“We sympathise greatly with the needs of those members and would suggest that out-of-hours coverage of north east Fife is from Kirkcaldy is simply not tenable from any point of view.”

Professor Mapstone concludes the letter offering the university’s help in “restoring and retaining the MIU facility”.

In response to the letter, Claire Dobson, Divisional General Manager (West), said that nationally and in Fife “Primary Care Emergency Services (PCES) and other urgent care services are under considerable pressure” and that to address staff shortages “clinical staff and partners across Fife are working to develop a longer term solution for urgent care services”.

She adds: “Unfortunately we’ve had to take immediate action in Fife to ensure we can continue to deliver a clinically safe and sustainable service over the next few months. But we will continue to develop our plans for longer term measures for urgent care and will consult the public before any permanent decisions are made.

“We have worked with NHS Tayside to secure treatment centre appointments between midnight and 8am at Kings Cross Hospital in Dundee. This option is available to people living in north east Fife as an alternative.

“It is important to say that if someone needs to attend Victoria Hospital or Kings Cross Hospital out of hours and cannot drive we would ask if a family member or friend can help to get them there. If this can’t be organised or is not suitable, we will arrange for a clinician to call the patient and take appropriate measures. Where indicated the service will arrange a home visit.”