Victory for People Power as hospice is saved
DUNFERMLINE'S Queen Margaret hospice ward has been saved in a decision hailed as a victory for people power.
Health chiefs have finally backed down and dropped the plan to axe the ward, nine months after the Press revealed the closure threat as a cost-cutting measure.
There was a public outcry in West Fife after we highlighted the danger to the ward 16 palliative care facility and eventually more than 16,000 would sign a Labour Party petition to save it.
Politicians of all parties combined to safeguard the hospice and in the face of such united opposition NHS Fife initially hesitated and has now done a U-turn.
The Press has been praised by politicians for our part in defending the ward, a haven providing end-of-life care and support for patients and their loved ones during often traumatic times.
The Press was able to establish before Christmas that NHS Fife would withdraw the closure threat and that was confirmed at a meeting of the operations division committee in Kirkcaldy yesterday (Wednesday).
Labour MSP John Park said, "Only a matter of months ago, senior people from NHS Fife were going around saying this closure would go ahead no matter what the public thought.
"The success of the campaign showed the strength of feeling in the area and is a testament to the high regard people in West Fife have for the hospice service.
"Almost everyone knows somebody or has a relative who has had to use the hospice.
"Without the efforts of the Dunfermline Press in making the public aware of the plans to close the hospice and the efforts of those who went out on the streets with the petition, it's unlikely that the hospice would be staying open.
"When this news first broke it came as a complete shock to the hospice staff and it was presented as a done deal."
Dunfermline MP Thomas Docherty said, "This is a victory for the 16,000 people who signed our petition in the space of just six weeks.
"There was an amazing response from the public, a lot of hard work from our party workers but this was not a party political issue.
"Great credit must go to the Dunfermline Press for highlighting the closure threat and keeping the issue on the front page.
"This meant that people in the area knew straight away what the petition was about.
"Well done to NHS Fife for listening for once but I am calling for a clear and unambiguous statement that this is the end of the matter and it will not crop up again in a year or so."
A report to the committee stated, "A proposal was made in May 2011 to change the provision of inpatient specialist palliative care services in Queen Margaret Hospital and reduce the inpatient facilities by the emergency care and medicine directorate.
"This proposal was driven by the need to provide a more community-focused approach to the delivery of palliative care for this group of patients.
"The proposal was included as part of the emergency care directorate's plan for the efficiencies recognising the potential opportunity to achieve change and support the delivery of care within the community setting."
It went on, "The group also considered the relocation of acute services from Queen Margaret Hospital Dunfermline to the new wing at Victoria Hospital Kirkcaldy and the implications for medical cover.
"It was agreed to review the admission criteria for the specialist palliative care units on both acute sites.
"As a result of this initial work the working group proposed not to make changes to the inpatient facilities currently provided in Queen Margaret Hospital."
However, with a "further review of the inpatient model of care and possible consolidation of inpatient numbers" to be carried out, campaigners will be on their guard.
Rosyth's John Winton, elected NHS Fife board member, said, "I'm obviously glad they've now dropped this.
"I've asked time and again about the way these things are put into the public domain without any proper consideration.
"We saw it with the threatened end of home births which also created an uproar.
"This has always been about knowing the value of things and not just the cost of things."
SNP MSP Bill Walker, said "I'm very pleased with this decision. It would have been ridiculous to take these hospice beds away from a major centre of population.
"On this occasion NHS Fife have listened - they had to - and it was a campaign argued on a reasoned basis.
"It's about priorities and I think we have to preserve end-of-life and start-of-life care.
"I don't know if they were flying a kite on this but if they were it's been well and truly shot down."
Kelty councillor Alex Rowley, Fife's Labour leader, said, "I'm pleased that common sense has prevailed and this proposal should never have seen the light of day in the first place.
"I'd like to thank the thousands of people who took the time to queue and sign our petition. They have made their voice heard.
"The hospice service is treasured for the care and support it gives to people who are sadly coming to the end of their lives."
This article appeared in Dunfermline Press 27 Jan 12
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Jan 28, 15:52
Can't understand Mr Walker trying to take praise on this issue,back in June he said he would support the campaign then accused the Labour Party of there hypocrisy on the issue.When in fact it was the Labour Party who led this campaign.If the issue had been left to the likes of Bill Walker you can be sure that the Dunfermline Hospice would be closed.
Recommend? Yes 7 No 3