The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, MSP Jeanne Freeman, confirmed the availability of funding for a new proposal regarding the out-of hours service in St Andrews.
At the Scottish Parliament, Fife MSP Mark Ruskell enquired about opportunities to finance a new model proposed by the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership (FHSCP), which would see the re-establishment of the service.
This would include keeping GPs and clinicians at St Andrews Hospital to 10 pm on weekdays, from 8 am to midnight on Saturday, and from 10 am to 8 pm on Sunday.
The service would also involve car-based home visits by clinicians and, when required, access to St Andrew’s Urgent Care Centre.
Mr Ruskell asked, “A new multi-disciplinary model is emerging that could save the services that we have all been fighting for, but it will require additional resources.
“Will the Cabinet Secretary commit to providing additional funding for training prescribing pharmacists and advanced nurse practitioners to deliver that new, modern model for out-of-hours delivery across Fife?”
Ms Freeman acknowledged this request. She said, “I am aware of the proposals that are in hand. We have additional funds available to help both prescribing nurses and pharmacists in those matters.
“We will look at the proposal when it comes to me specifically.”
Those involved in the campaigning to maintain the functioning of the service have welcomed the Cabinet Secretary’s remarks. Chairwoman of St Andrews Out of Hours Group, Dr Angela Anderson, said to Fife Today, “We are very pleased that the Health Secretary is taking such a close interest in the work being done to redesign the St Andrews out of hours service.
“We are also delighted that she has additional funds available to help train prescribing pharmacists and advanced nurse practitioners to deliver OOH services across Fife. “We look forward to this training beginning as soon as possible so that the newly designed OOH service in St Andrews can be introduced and the other OOH services in Fife better supported.”
Similarly, Penelope Fraser, vice-chairwoman of St Andrews Community Council, said to Fife Today, “We applaud the far-sightedness of the Health Secretary and look forward to seeing sustainable solutions for OOH care in Fife.”
This progress comes months after an online petition rejecting the closure of the Out of Hours Service instigated by Willie Rennie, MSP for North East Fife, attained more than 6,000 signatures from students, staff, and local residents of the town.
Previously, FHSCP had planned for the permanent closure of the service, but the following complaints made them review this decision.
There are currently no confirmed details on the new model for the service.
Dr Anderson said, “The model we have come up with still needs some work, some details require clarification.
“It has to be formally sanctioned by the members of the integration joint board, and it will be important to monitor and review it once it is operational.”
The new proposal is predicted to be introduced to the FHSCP’s integration joint board (IJB) this month for authorisation.
FHSCP will also examine the Urgent Care Service on 26 April.
Speaking of the movement for the new model, MSP Willie Rennie said to Fife Today, “It will be a major step forward if people in north east Fife won’t have to travel to Kirkcaldy to receive out of hours primary healthcare.
“If this proposal is agreed by the board in April it would mean the original plans to close the facility in St Andrews Hospital will be abandoned. That would be great news. This service would be possible and sustainable because the minor injuries service and minor illness service would be combined; the evening service would start later and finish earlier when demand is typically lower; an in/out overnight service would be adopted freeing up clinicians to meet demand for home visits; and there would greater use of advanced nurse practitioners and other clinicians.
“Working together with the community and health professionals, Fife Health and Social Care Partnership has come up with an innovative solution that I hope the board is able to accept.”