Students and locals have been calling to reinstate out-of-hours GP services in St Andrews.
The services were temporarily removed from the town in April in a move that took the same services from other Fife hospitals, including Glenrothes and Dunfermline.
The removal was originally due to last for three months because of efficiency concerns particularly at the St Andrews hospital, but that removal has now been extended until January, when a vote will be cast as to whether to bring the services back.
At the time of closure, an NHS spokesperson stated, “NHS Fife has made clear that this contingency should be temporary and that the FHSCP (Fife Health and Social Care Partnership) makes all efforts to both recruit and reinstate the service as quickly as possible.”
However, both of the new proposals by the FHSCP include centralising overnight services to either Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy or Kirkcaldy only, with no option to reinstate services in St Andrews.
The main concern for both a student and elderly population is the difficulty in transportation to Kirkcaldy for the services.
The FHSCP stated, “the urgent care centres described are both within a one-hour drive for everyone in Fife.”
However, concerns have been raised as, according to government statistics, only 2 percent of students aged 17 to 24 drive to education. The University also actively discourages students from using cars.
Elderly people in St Andrews are also of particular concern, with 27.5 percent of the north east Fife population projected to be over 65 in 2026.
Without a car, a motion proposed by the Director of Wellbeing, Nicholas Farrer, acknowledges that after 8:45 pm on a weekday, every journey to Kirkcaldy by bus takes at least two hours and requires at least two buses.
Additionally, the last bus service from St Andrews runs at 9:30 pm, with no bus until 6:30 am the following morning.
Out of these times, it would be necessary to travel by taxi, with one quote from a taxi company priced at £65.45 for a single journey from St Andrews to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.
The motion raised by Mr Farrer also highlights the lack of ambulance cover, with some staff at the University testifying having to wait 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, even in serious emergencies.
NHS Fife has made clear that this contingency should be temporary
It then takes over 45 minutes to drive from St Andrews to Victoria Hospital.
Despite the FHSCP proposal to close the out-of-hours services, there are no mentions within the proposal of increasing ambulance cover in Fife.
Principal Sally Mapstone has called the move a “serious concern,” noting “significant risks.”
Locally, a petition to retain out-of-hours services in St Andrews created by the MSP for North East Fife, Willie Rennie, has gained almost 3,700 signatures since its creation on 30 August.
Mr Rennie said, “Everybody I have spoken to about this has expressed a clear view that it should not happen and there is a growing anger. There are some really powerful stories.”
Comments on the online petition include a statement from a GP working in Kirkcaldy who is concerned that the facilities will be unable to cope with the extra workload at times of high demand, such as public holidays, and a testimony from a woman who claims that the St Andrews out-of-hours likely saved her life.
Mr Farrer’s motion proposes that University staff and students work with local politicians to resist the loss of GP out-of-hours services. It was passed on Tuesday 18 September by the Joint Councils of the Students’ Association.
The Joint Councils resolved to urge students to participate in the consultations, and to explain why any closure of the services places them at risk.
Additionally, the Councils resolved to urge students to sign the petition resisting the closure, and to write to the President of the Students Association and the Director of Wellbeing to testify their resistance to the closure and experience with out-of-hours services.
Principal Sally Mapstone called the move a “serious concern”
A public consultation meeting with the officials responsible for the closure of services was held on Monday 24 September in the St Andrews Town Hall, for local residents and students to ask their questions and express their opinions on the closure.