Max Waller, former Viewpoint Editor
The local council is failing to provide services to the local community as a result of staff shortages. They have closed out of hours’ services, and are pushing patients towards local private alternatives to provide primary care. This isn’t healthcare free at the point of need, this is health care that you need, but will have to pay for be-cause NHS Fife is failing to provide essential services. The St Andrews Community Hospital, built with the purpose of centralising St Andrews’ health care, is failing to do just that. They have closed out of hours’ community services. Leaving the option of going to Dundee or Kirkcaldy; at midnight, when you’re ill and in pain, the last thing you want to do is catch the night bus out of town or get a cab. It’s either that or wait till 8 am when the hospital reopens. An ambulance is always available, but treating them as glorified taxies is hardly a good use of resources.
The hospital’s justification for this is a lack of GPs, which is part of a wide shortage of about 3000 throughout Scotland. Even so, NHS Fife should attempt to recruit more staff and reopen the service. Students should not have to spend £38.95 on a cab to get to hospital in Dundee in an emergency, nor should they have to call an ambulance. When you consider that the local NHS provider wants to have a “per-son-centred focus” service, that is “reducing inequalities,” while ensuring “equity of access” you have to ask how closing a service achieves any of these things. As Professor Mapstone has said, this situation only serves as a risk to student health by making treatment more inaccessible. This does not demonstrate a person-centred focus to health care but reflects an emphasis on cutting costs. Furthermore, the University has recently opened a University Health hub at St Andrews community hospital that is staffed and funded by the University, at the cost of £150,000, in combination with the addition of an app to reduce student visits to the doctors. It is offer triage services and recommends the best services for particular ailments. This should help cut GP waiting times down from an unacceptable three weeks and is an excellent example of the University trying to help out the local community. Even with the help of this service, the Community Hospital is not able to keep out of hours facilities open.
Other essential services, such as ear syringing have been “suspended,” with the Community Hospital recommending a local private provider who charges between £40-60 for a service that can be provided by a nurse. The assumption is that if you need this service, you should use private providers. The overall picture is of a local community hospital that is struggling to serve the local community due to a combination of lack of funds and a lack of staff. NHS Fife needs to clean up its act, reinstate out of hours services and remember the founding principle of the NHS: healthcare free at the point of need.