Residents of North East Fife have had the option of being treated by NHS Tayside for many years but it has been claimed that now they are routinely being turned away.
However, Lib Dem councillor Tim Brett (CEO of Tayside Health Board until 2002) said the arrangement appeared to be breaking down.“It has been made clear to me that NHS Tayside are refusing referrals from NHS Fife and most concerning is that this is happening more often,” he said.
“The matter has been raised with me by senior staff at NHS Fife as well as GPs and patients. We are supposed to have a national health service and in particular, neighbouring health boards should be working closely together to benefit patients.”
North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie said constituents had linked the issue with the proposed closure of the GP out-of-hours service in St Andrews. “I am very worried to learn that NHS Fife doctors are now telling us that referrals are being repeatedly refused by NHS Tayside and the problem is increasing,” he said.“We need to know more about what is going wrong, so patients can get the care they need in a timely manner.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said Tayside and Fife out-of-hours services had a long standing agreement which means patients from Tayport, Newport and Newburgh can be seen in Dundee or Perth Primary Care Emergency Centres. Since last April the out-of-hours service in Tayside has agreed to temporarily extend the overnight arrangement for residents in Cupar, Leuchars and St Andrews. There had been no change to its acceptance of appropriate referrals from Fife she added.
“In common with other unscheduled care services, out-of-hours can sometimes experience periods of high demand,” she said. “However, all patients referred to the service as part of the agreement with Fife Health and Social Care Partnership have been seen by the out-of-hours service within clinically appropriate timescales. Each patient is triaged by NHS 24 before being referred to the service.”
NHS Fife Medical Director Dr Frances Elliot said: “NHS Fife works closely with our colleagues in Tayside to provide the best possible care for patients in the most appropriate location.“In the small number of highly specialist cases where challenges do occur NHS Fife has strong working relationships with neighbouring health boards to ensure that patients gain access to care that they require.”