The health boss behind the emergency temporary closure of Out-of-hours primary care services at three Fife hospitals has admitted he’s unclear when and if they will reopen.
The revelation came from Micheal Kellett, chairman of Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, as he was summoned to appear before councillors in Glenrothes to explain the unprecedented decision to close the services at Glenrothes, Dunfermline and St Andrews hospitals due to a staffing crisis and fears that patient safety could not be met.
Facing a grilling from members of Glenrothes Area committee yesterday, Mr Kellett said: “We are currently in negotiation with GPs and that will continue but what we have said is that we will review the situation after three months and we will do what we can to seek to reinstate the existing services across the three centres at that three month point if that’s possible.
“What I can’t do today is give an guarentees around that will require use to resolve the issues that we face.”
Furthermore, when asked if he would postpone a forthcoming public consultation of a possible re-shaping of primary care provision across Fife, due to be introduced in June, until such time that the OOH service had been reinstated, Mr Kellett insisted that decision would be taken by the Integrated Joint Board (IJB) when it meets later this month.
“I accept this is a far from ideal situation to have the service closed whilst a consultation takes place around its future, but we are doing all we can,” said Mr Kellett.
The health boss faced around 50 minutes of questioning from committee members, all of which expressed their deep concern over how the crisis had been allowed to unfold and who knew of the closure ahead of the drastic decision being made.
Despite repeatedly stating that it was himself should take the responsibility for the decision based on clinical advice, Mr Kellett eventually confirmed that both the chief executive of NHSFife Paul Hawkins, Fife Council chief Steve Grimmond and senior members of the IJB were all aware of the situation and the decision to close the three hospital sites.
“Frankly this is an unacceptable situation and I’m at a loss to know how, with all of these senior staff involved, did this crisis and this decision not get communicated sooner?” said Glenrothes councillor Altany Craik.
Mr Kellett once again outlined the current crisis around the shortage of available GPs telling councillors that the situation in Fife mirrored what was being experienced now across Scotland.
While he accepted that GPs were to remain on independent contracts, efforts were being made to see if an option for salaried GP positions could be created to ease the staffing shortage.
With currently on 68 of the 150 available GP’s being regularly used for Primary Care Emergency Services (PCES), and offered double and even triple time and the possibility of earning as much as £1600 per shift to cover at short notice, Mr Kellett said the situation has “simply become unsustainable.”
Members of the IJB are set to meet on May 22 to discuss the crisis further.