The controversial closure of the out-of-hours service at three Fife hospitals , initiallly to be three months, will now continue until at least January 2019.
The emergency closure of Primary Care Emergency Services at hospitals in Dunfermline, St Andrews and Glenrothes between midnight and 8am, was brought in in April because of the lack of available GPs and fears over patient safety.
Fife Health and Social Care Partnership bosses claim the move is a result of on-going nursing and medical staffing difficulties and has been taken on safety grounds.
The move has been roundly criticised by local politicians and many members of the public who are being asked to use a centralised single service at Victoria hospital in Kirkcaldy.
Michael Kellet, director of the Partnership said: “The on-going challenges we face have left us with no other option but to extend the contingency measures to ensure patient safety.
“We have taken and will continue to take every step available to us to try and resume services.
“This includes advertising to recruit Nursing and GP staff and working with GP leads to encourage our existing workforce to support the service wherever possible.”
“Fife like many other areas of Scotland is experiencing the impact of national shortages of key staff in this area.
“In response we have put in place the contingency measures to ensure a safe and reliable service. In addition, we must look at solutions to secure safe and sustainable services in the immediate and long term. This requires transformation of traditional health and social care ways of working and service models.
“We will launch the Joining Up Care consultation on the July 2. Through the consultation we want to hear the widest range of voices possible from right across Fife.
“From the North East to the South West and everywhere in-between, we are open to hearing ideas and suggestions as to how sustainable services can be developed at a local and Fife wide level.
This includes the re-design of Out of Hours as one of three main programmes of change. The consultation will last 14 weeks and the re-design of Out of Hours care is one of three main programmes of change.
“I would like to pay tribute to staff in PCES for the on-going commitment to the people of Fife during this period of uncertainty and change.”