It’s time to think again – that is our message to Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, which is proposing to cut the out-of-hours service at St Andrews Hospital.
The partnership has put forward two proposals: an out-of-hours service at Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital and Dunfermline’s Queen Margaret Hospital, or just one at the former.
It would mean all residents in north east Fife – pensioners in the East Neuk, students in St Andrews, families in the surrounding villages – would be forced to travel through the Kingdom or across to Dundee to get to the vital service.
It is understandable local people have not taken the news well.
Residents, politicians, the University of St Andrews, and even nurses and GPs have lambasted the partnership over its plans to cut St Andrews service.
Thousands of people have signed MSP Willie Rennie’s petition calling for the plans to be dropped.
Hundreds turned out to grill health bosses at the consultation last month – a big enough audience to force a late change of venue. Around 70 attended the consultation in Anstruther.
But nothing has changed. When will the partnership listen and alter its plans?
Mr Rennie, who is planning to hand over his petition to the partnership later this month, said it would be a “dark day for health in east Fife” if the out-of-hours service was shut.
“What makes matters worse is that the Minor Injury Unit is under threat too so it would be a double blow to the town,” he added.
“Hundreds of people spoke with anger at public meetings in St Andrews and Anstruther, hundreds have completed the detailed consultation questionnaire, and thousands and thousands have backed my petition. All this should force them to think again.
“St Andrews and east Fife is rural, has a large number of elderly people and international students, and is a long way from Kirkcaldy. Local people want to keep the service and local GPs will step up to provide a service so the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership need to do the right thing.”
The University of St Andrews has also been vocal in its condemnation of the decision to close the service.
Principal Professor Sally Mapstone wrote to health bosses earlier this year, voicing concerns that few students have access to public transport and cars at that time.
It is also calling for the proposal to be dropped.
A spokesperson for the university said: “The university has been made aware of disquiet in the student and staff populations at the closure, which occurred before the consultation process even started.
“Of particular concern has been the lack of a consultation option of re-opening the facility.
“Since our first statement it is now indicated that the MIU will be at risk.
“The university contributes immensely to the Fife economy and yet our distinct demographic profile – and that of the local population which features much of the aged residents of Fife – has not been taken into consideration in this service closure.
“We would voice, in the strongest terms, a need for a reversal of the closure as soon as possible.”
Callum MacLeod, chair of the community council, said the proposals had “galvanised” the people of St Andrews and the East Neuk into expressing their “absolute dismay and anger”.
He added: “Health service managers can have been left in absolutely no doubt that the people of the area are not at all persuaded that official minds have not already been made up, do not see the need to travel with difficulty to obtain out-of-hours care when we have a hospital in our midst and are outraged that there is no option three utilising St Andrews Hospital when local doctors are saying that normal service could easily be resumed.”