Since the decision was made to temporarily discontinue the out of hours service at the St Andrews Community Hospital, a spark of rage ignited a hotbed of discontent, which still burns strong. Not only has there been public outcry surrounding the closure, but local MSP’s have gotten involved in an attempt to try to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Local MSP Willie Rennie has spoken out against the closure, stating that: “We were told patients in north Fife would be seen at Dundee Kings Cross Hospital rather than being forced to travel to Kirkcaldy. Now we discover NHS Tayside is often too busy to handle Fife patients.” His statement comes in retaliation to the NHS telling residents of St Andrews that they would have to travel to Dundee; previously stating that patients requiring out of hours medical attention would have to make their own way to Kirkcaldy, but that statement in itself elicited anger from the public.
Kirkcaldy, whilst still in the Kingdom of Fife, is 24 miles away from St Andrews. This obviously raised some eyebrows when students and residents of St Andrews were told to commute there for medical aid, as it is simply too far away. Sure, if you have a car then it is not a big deal, however, if you are the patient and unable to drive, what do you do? If you are a student who does not have access to a car, what do you do? Our little town does not have a train station and buses at night can be scarce, leaving residents and students with one option. A taxi. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal situation for anyone, never mind a student with a tight budget to adhere to.
So now we are being advised to make our way to Dundee in a medical emergency. Closer in terms of distance, yes, but does NHS Tayside actually have the staff and capacity to treat patients from Fife as well as their own? It seems not. As recently as the start of this month, NHS Tayside revealed that were planning on shedding 10% of their workforce in order to reduce their staffing bill. This in itself is worrying seeing as the NHS is always crying out for doctors and nurses, but now how would such a greatly reduced number of staff be able to give efficient and quality care to so many people from across Dundee and Fife?
We are told that our health is the most important aspect of our lives, both physical and mental. This rings true even more so during the academic year, when it’s very easy to let little illnesses or warning signs go unnoticed because of the lack of time available to us. It’s often hard enough for a student to find time to pop into their local GP as it is, never mind if the closest hospital available to them requires a bus or train journey. This is just another sign of health inequality in the United Kingdom that sadly seems to be becoming more and more common.
As of right now, the issue is still ongoing. Students, staff and residents of St Andrews as well as those in the surrounding towns have been left in limbo until the 20th of December, when a long-term decision will finally be made.