Protest at Kirkcaldy hospital against NHS cuts
Protesters gathered outside Victoria Hospital this morning (Thursday) to voice their opposition to cuts in NHS Fife's budget.
It was announced last week that demands on the region’s health service means that savings of more than £30m need to made over the next financial year.
Reviews are expected for the minor injuries and diabetes services as well as hospital security, catering and laundry provision.
But speaking to the Press at the protest, Fife Council leader David Ross said the cuts were “unacceptable” and would have a “huge impact on services”.
“The scale of the savings is absolutely huge,” he said, “And will inevitably have an our ability jointly to deliver the health and social care changes that everybody recognises we need.
“It will compromise that completely.” Mr Ross also hit out at the timing of the announcement, saying that it had come out of the blue.
“This has been sprung on us at the last minute.
“We had no idea that the level of savings the health service were going to have to make in Fife was anything like this when we set our council budget.
“We are under significant financial pressure with our budget being cut but we’ve managed to prop that up and protect services as far as we can.
“But when we are jointly working with the health service to provide health and social care jointly, we’re not going to be able to do it with this level of cutbacks.
“We need to take this message to the Scottish Government and say that this is unacceptable.”
NHS Fife bosses have claimed that all jobs will be protected but staff and unions say that they are not convinced that this will be the case.
Andrew Verrecchia, secretary of NHS Fife branch of Unison, who is also an operating department practitioner for NHS Fife, said the news is “hugely disappointing” and that there was a “lack of communication” from those in charge.
“You saw the Scottish Government were swept to power last week. The cornerstone of their campaign was that health budgets were protected and immune form cuts, when clearly they’re not.
“It’s hugely unsettling for our members.
“There’s not been a lot of communication from the directors as to where these cuts are going to be, what form they are going to take. We’re just not sure.”
Andrew said the cuts will affect everyone in Fife.
“We are staff, but we’re also service users and the ramifications of this, for us all, are huge,” he said.
“We have a no redundancy policy within the NHS so employment is protected but this is going to have a huge effect of how people work, where they work and what work they do.
“Until we see more, as we’re all a bit in the dark at the moment, we can’t support this in it’s current form.”
A major rethink of service provision is now being planned as NHS Fife sets about finding the necessary cuts - equivalent to a huge five per cent of its annual £604m budget.
But John Gillespie, chairman of the Fife activist committee of the Unite union, put it bluntly, saying: “This has to be stopped.
He added: “This is austerity max. The Scottish parliament has the power to stop this.
“This is going to impact on the local authority through the health and social care partnership, the community not-for-profit sector and the Fife economy.
“The people of Fife deserve better.”
Mr Gillespie will lead a delegation through to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh toady and has called on every MSP in Fife who was elected last week to join them in protest.
“We contacted them all and asked them to join us so let’s see who turns up,” he said.
“This is only the start of the campaign. We will be lobbying every politician in Fife to get behind us and the people of Fife because this is unacceptable.
“NHS services are stretched as it is - people are already at breaking point.
“The staff do a wonderful job but they are struggling to cope and as far as we are concerned there should be investment not cuts.”
A spokesman for NHS Fife said: “The scale of this financial challenge is considerable; however we remain committed to delivering solutions that are right for our patients and right for our staff.”