Fife hospice care: community backs MSP’s petition to save west Fife facility

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The Dunfermline community has rallied behind an MSP's petition to re-open a local hospice ward after patients were transferred to Kirkcaldy.

More than 1600 people have signed Claire Baker’s petition calling for the permanent re-opening of the facility at Queen Margaret Hospital.

It was moved to the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy - 12 miles away - in February.

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Councillor Gordon Pryde, Dunfermline North, (Labour) has backed the petition. The service, he said, was well used and much loved by the community.

The facility was moved from Queen Margaret Hospital to the Victoria Hospital 12 miles awayThe facility was moved from Queen Margaret Hospital to the Victoria Hospital 12 miles away
The facility was moved from Queen Margaret Hospital to the Victoria Hospital 12 miles away

“I have no doubt that Victoria is an excellent hospital, but it’s not appropriate that all facilities are provided in the Kirkcaldy hub,” he said.

“Dunfermline is a significant city in its own right with a growing population. Public transport to Kirkcaldy is available, but it’s not always easy for people to use and it can be expensive.”

NHS Fife said said the issue is a misunderstanding and no decisions have yet been taken about permanent changes to hospice care.

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Lynne Garvey, head of community care services with the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, said palliative care service in the region moved to a single inpatient hospice at the start of the pandemic, enabling a greater balance of at home care to be provided.

“This model remains in place and continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of patients,” she said.

In 2022, Fife’s singular hospice facility temporarily moved to Queen Margaret Hospital to enable an extensive refurbishment of the Victoria Hospice.

In February, that work was completed, and the in-patient hospice moved back to Kirkcaldy.

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Claire Baker MSP, Mid-Scotland and Fife, (Labour) said: “The closure of the ward by NHS Fife is a huge blow for Fife.

"While some people want to be cared for at home that’s not an option for everyone and we need to ensure all patients have a choice about where end of life care is delivered.

She continued: “The lack of transparency around its closure is completely unacceptable and with the health board due to consider the future of palliative care delivery in Fife later this year, I am worried the hospice will never reopen.”

The public reasons for signing the petition portray many personal stories about loved ones who spent their final moments at Queen Margaret’s hospice.

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The local facility enabled families to spend more time with their loved ones in their final days.

Cllr Pryde added: "When an individual comes to the end of their life, they need to be cared for in an appropriate, loving, caring environment. That’s what these hospices give. In-patient palliative care is desperately needed and it needs to be done locally.”

Ms Garvey pointed out that NHS Fife has seen more demand for in-home palliative care and less for in-patient facilities.

“Between 2019 and 2022 the average waiting times for an inpatient hospice bed in Fife have reduced, from an average of 3.4 days to 1.4 days,” she said.

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“For those who are unable to, or who would prefer not to receive palliative care at home, there continues to be access to inpatient palliative and end of life care beds within Queen Margaret Hospital, in addition to our other community hospitals and the Victoria Hospice.”

NHS Fife said no final decision has been made regarding the long term future of Queen Margaret’s hospice yet.

“A wider piece of work is ongoing to look at the future delivery of specialist palliative care in Fife,” Ms Garvey explained.

“No decisions have yet been taken about any changes to in-patient end-of-life care. It is likely that any proposed changes will be taken to the NHS Fife board and the integrated joint board later this year.”