CAMPAIGNERS fear it will take the death of a villager to solve problems accessing healthcare at High Valleyfield surgery.

Members of the community council have written to the head of NHS Fife, Tricia Marwick, after the surgery, which they say covers "at least 8,000" residents, was left with just one GP.

They have also found, through a Freedom of Information request, that just 10 per cent of phone calls are answered at the practice.

Chairman of Torryburn and Newmills Community Council, Alistair McIntosh, asked residents to detail any concerns, receiving several worrying responses, including one from a woman who, after failing to get an appointment, ended up in hospital with a suspected heart attack.

Mr McIntosh said: "There are a large number of very upset people in our villages who find it impossible to get a doctor’s appointment in a surgery which has no doctors!

"I found out that we had approx 430 doctor's working days in the last year split across all of the doctors, most of which have now retired, so less than TWO GPs.

"NHS Fife are doing their best to hide from the public and we do not want any deaths in our villages as a result of a system that does not work and has not worked for a long time."

In the letter, members of the group, with support from several councillors and politicians, outlined concerns around recruitment, availability, communication, and phone management.

This included MSP Alex Rowley, who has now written to the Cabinet Secretary in the hope of resolving the matter.

He said that NHS Fife had "put their heads in the sand" and requested a meeting with Humza Yousaf for himself and members of West Fife Villages’ community councils.

He highlighted concerns over the impact on the health of those reliant on the practice, and said that NHS Fife had failed to give an explanation for the poor service.

Associate medical director for the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, Dr Helen Hellewell, said: "As has been well-documented, there is a UK-wide shortage of general practitioners and this is making the recruitment of GPs incredibly difficult in Fife, as it is elsewhere.

"We have been working for some time to recruit additional GPs for Valleyfield Medical Practice, however, despite significant efforts, we have not yet been able to make any permanent appointments. While the efforts to recruit additional permanent medical staff continues, the practice continues to be staffed by salaried and locum GPs, with the support of advanced nurse practitioners, practice pharmacists, physiotherapy staff, and mental health nursing.

"A number of actions have already taken made to ensure patients have access to services, including changes to the appointment system and arrangements for ordering repeat prescriptions. We are committed to improving the local healthcare provision available to patients in Valleyfield in the medium- and longer-term, and we are currently exploring a range of measures to enable us to do that.

"We acknowledge there have been issues in the past for patients calling the practice by phone. To help alleviate this, the telecommunications system was upgraded, and the number of phone lines increased to provide practice staff with greater capacity to respond to patient phone calls.

"The practice has also changed its process for ordering repeat prescriptions to bring these into line with best practice and provide more capacity for over-the-phone triage."