Politicians unite to force re-think on controversial out of hours health plans

Willie Rennie speaking at the out-of-hours discussion.
Willie Rennie speaking at the out-of-hours discussion.

Health bosses have come under renewed pressure to look again at a proposal to manage emergency out of hours care.

Five Fife politicians have written to Fife Health and Social Care Partnership urging it to re-think its veto of a plan put forward by GPs to treat people in north-east Fife locally rather than sending them to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.

St Andrews was one of three towns which lost its out of hours service as the partnership tried to tackle a shortage of doctors.

It temporarily closed the local services, and put them all to the Vic, sparking a huge backlash in each community.

Last month, GPs in north-east Fife made their offer to see patients locally only for it to be turned down.

That stance was described as ‘‘a snub’’ to St Andrews.

The proposal came after a public meeting with cross-party support, organised by Willie Rennie, MSP and leader of the Lib Dems in Scotland.

Together with MSPs Claire Baker (Labour), Liz Smith and Murdo Fraser (Conservative), and Stephen Gethins MP (SNP), he has called for a re-think.

In a joint letter to the board, he said: “After a productive meeting at St. Andrews Town Hall where a potential solution was put forward, I was flabbergasted that this sensible idea, proposed by local GPs was voted down by the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership board.

“I’ve written to them and the leaders of the council to stress how disappointed I am they’ve snubbed north-east Fife in this limited consultation.’’

Mr Rennie said sending patients to Kirkcaldy was not a solution given the distances involved.

He added: “St. Andrews may be a small town, but the large student population and ageing population adds up to a high volume of demand on the NHS.

“Moving all overnight provision to Kirkcaldy is short-sighted when you consider our rural location, it’s either a long journey for patients or doctors.

“The board’s decision is particularly disappointing since local GPs themselves asked to continue treating patients and were told to only see them from the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy. If patients, doctors and local politicians are all backing this proposal, it seems odd for the board to ignore it.

“I look forward to their reply and hope they are open to the suggestion for a local service.”