NHS Fife is ‘bouncing from one crisis to another’ claims MSP

Main entrance to Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy
Main entrance to Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy

A Fife MSP is campaigning for an independent review of health and social care services in Fife as a matter of urgency.

Alex Rowley raised the call following a meeting with Alex Neil, Cabinet secretary of Health and Wellbeing during which he argued the region was operating under unsustainable pressures.

His list of concerns included: a shortage of 38 consultants and up to 100 nurses, cancellations becoming more common and record levels of complaints from staff about understaffing.

In addition he claimed bed blocking was on the rise and community care was “creaking at the seams with record levels of people on waiting lists for care packages in the community.”

“Whilst Mr Neil listened, was very courteous and stated he did not support a independent review on the grounds that he is well aware of what the problems are, he did not offer any detailed solutions, gave no indication of timescales for addressing the problems and crucially, did not acknowledge the funding problems for both hospital and community care,” said Mr Rowley.

Winter was only likely to make problems worse, he maintained and claimed an independent review would set out Fife’s health needs, priorities and what additional money was required.

Mr Rowley said he would join colleagues from Parliament and Fife Council to launch a petition calling on the Scottish Government to act.

“We’ve got to get to the bottom of this,” said Mr Rowley.

“Otherwise NHS Fife will just keep bouncing from one crisis to another.”

Meanwhile, NHS Fife Interim Chief Executive, Dr Brian Montgomery wanted to assure the public that NHS Fife and its partners had “robust” plans in place to deal with a challenging winter season, including a surge ward with additional capacity for 28 beds to meet increased demand.

“NHS Fife has worked closely with Fife Council and partner organisations over a number of months to ensure that measures are put in place for any foreseeable eventualities the winter period may bring,” he said.

He added: “I am confident that with these measures in place, we will be able to manage patient flow whilst continuing to provide safe and effective care to those who need it.”

“Regarding delayed discharges, like all Boards, there are pressures on our services as our population lives longer with increasingly complex care needs,” Dr Montgomery said, but added work was ongoing to address this among NHS, Fife council and community agencies.

Crunching the numbers

NHS Fife recently announced recruitment of 100 new nurses and Chris Bowring, finance director, revealed the £3.1 million cost would come from existing funds - so far, 50 posts have been filled.

This week, Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy was operating at nearly 96 per cent capacity, with 517 of 539 in patient beds taken up.