Second consultation over out of hours GP services in Fife

Poster for out of hours consulltation in Fife
Poster for out of hours consulltation in Fife

A Fife wide public consultation on out of hours GP services is to be held again after concerns were raised that St Andrews was receiving special treatment.

At the health and social care integrated joint board (IJB) on Thursday, members voted to re-consider the service’s  provision across the whole of Fife, after the board looked at treating the north-east town on its own.

A 14-week consultation asked members of the public for input on the future of the out of hours GP services in Glenrothes, St Andrews and Dunfermline. The services have been restricted to just Kirkcaldy since April, after staff shortages meant shifts were going unfilled.

The preferred optionwas to retain OOH at just Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline – but residents of north east Fife petitioned the board to save the St Andrews service. They argued it would take  up to an hour for people to drive to Kirkcaldy.

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However, Dr Frances Elliot, board member and medical director of NHS Fife, said that considering a special addition for north east Fife raised issues of equality of the service.

She: “When we started this redesign we said it had to provide equitable care across the region.

“When I think about the geography of Fife and when I look at the west Fife villages, the population there is not likely to be as vocal or as articulate in expressing their concerns, but there is still issues around access and service delivery.

“We need to be quite careful as an IJB about what this addendum will mean to us as a political system and therefore how that comes out in other communities around Fife. What we want out of this, within the resources we have, is the best possible outcome for the entire population of Fife.”

Board member Martin Black agreed, adding: “We must have equality across the whole of Fife. We are talking about democracy, and just because one wee bit wants this, it’s going to cause a whole host of problems. Unless this consultation is across the whole of Fife, I won’t be supporting it.”

The new consultation will explore if there are any other options to return services to all areas of Fife, and not just St Andrews.

David Alexander, co-leader of Fife Council, said that the consultation needed to move forward.

He told the board:  “As politicians, we could have all defended our own little patch – but that’s not why we’re on this board. We’re here to defend the whole of Fife.

“The reality is that the medics just don’t exist, that’s why we’re down to just one centre already. We have got to be practical and realistic here.”

No time frame was given to the new consultation, but a report is expected to be brought back to next IJB meeting in February.