Fife hospital service closures branded a “stab in the back”

The Out-Of-Hours services have been closed at Glenrothes, Dunfermline and St Andrews hospitals.
The Out-Of-Hours services have been closed at Glenrothes, Dunfermline and St Andrews hospitals.

There has been widespread public and political condemnation of the decision to close the Out-of-Hours services at three Fife hospitals, including Glenrothes.

Fife Health and Social Care Partnership bosses dropped the bombshell on Wednesday, blaming GP and nurse staff difficulties and fears over patient safety for the introduction of emergency contingency measures which forced the closure of the overnight Primary Care Emergency Services (PCES) at Glenrothes, Dunfermline and St Andrews hospitals.

Campaigners who waged a 12 month campaign to save the service at Glenrothes Hospital five years ago have branded the decision a “stab in the back” for the town and “shameful”.

Denise Wallace, a member of North Glenrothes Community Council, said: “This is a massive stab in the back for the town and all of us who fought so hard to retain the service a few years ago.

“This will put lives in danger, not to mention the increase in 999 calls as there is no public transport during these hours.

“This is a shameful decision.”

Meanwhile, Glenrothes and Mid Fife MSP Jenny Gilruth has reacted fiercely to the announcement and has written to the head of the partnership, Michael Kellett, demanding answers as to how long the service has been deemed unsafe.

The MSP has also called on Mr Kellett to come clean on what steps had been made to improve staffing levels, and what measures are being planned to reinstate the service at Glenrothes Hospital.

Furthermore, Ms Gilruth fired a warning to Mr Kellett over the future of the service based in the town.

She said: “I know that my constituents and I are not prepared to have Glenrothes’ Out-Of-Hours service closed by stealth.

“I recall in 2013/14 the whole community came together to demand the service be reinstated.

“This appears to be a case of history repeating itself and is not acceptable.”

Ms Gilruth has also written to all 10 of the towns councillors calling for cross-party support to fight the future of the service in Glenrothes.

There was also much anger among councillors.

SNP councillor Fiona Grant, convener of Glenrothes area committee said she was “stunned” to learn of the closure.

“A cynic might fear that this is the first of several cuts to the service ultimately withdrawing from Glenrothes altogether.

“I’m really struggling to believe it was not possible to give the local community more warning of the withdrawal of this service, the same cynic might suggest this was to avoid the predictable public outcry.

“I will be asking for a report to Glenrothes area committee at the end of the three month trial period.”

Meanwhile, fellow councillor Altany Craik added: “This is a very worrying development.

“The temporary staffing issues need addressed and cannot be the first step to permanent removal of the service.

“Once again I expect all our politicians to stand together to prevent any permanent closure and to ensure that the Health and Social care partnership understand how vital the service is to those in and around Glenrothes.”

NHS Fife has moved to distance itself from the decision taken solely by Fife Health and Social Care Partnership.

An NHS Fife spokesman said: “Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, who manage PCES, has introduced contingency measures in response to workforce issues, based on clinical guidance.

“NHS Fife has made clear that this contingency should be temporary and that the partnership makes all efforts to both recruit and reinstate the service as quickly as possible.”

In an ironic twist of fate, Trica Marwick, the former Glenrothes MSP and Presiding Officer at Holyrood, who led the campaign to save the Out-Of-Hours service in 2013, is now chariman of NHS Fife.

A spokesman for NHS Fife said it would be inappropriate for Mrs Marwick to comment on the closure at this time because the decision had been made by the Health and Social Care Partnership, not NHS Fife.