A PETITION calling on NHS Fife to reopen the hospice at Queen Margaret Hospital has been launched by a Fife MSP.

Labour politician Claire Baker has raised her concerns over "closure by stealth" of the facility despite the health authority claiming that no final decisions have yet been made.

NHS Fife and the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership have operated a single inpatient hospice in Fife since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Between March 2020 and January 2022, the hospice was located in the grounds of the Victoria Hospital before moving temporarily to Queen Margaret Hospital to enable an extensive refurbishment of the Victoria Hospice.

Following the completion of the refurbishment, the inpatient service returned to Kirkcaldy last month.

Ms Baker said the closure of the Dunfermline hospice was a huge blow for Fife and claimed there was a lack of transparency around the move.

After launching the petition, she has urged people to support the call to reopen the hospice and highlight why local hospice care is important, ahead of a decision being taken on the future of palliative care delivery in Fife later this year.

“The Queen Margaret Hospice has provided vital and valued end of life care to many families and it is vital that we retain specialised care which supports people in end-of-life situations across the region," she said.

“While some people want to be cared for at home, that's not an option for everyone and we need to ensure all patients have a choice about where end-of-life care is delivered. Palliative care should be delivered as locally as possible but it will be very difficult for a lot of people in West Fife to travel to and from Kirkcaldy, especially when they have a loved one who is dying.

“I have been calling for reassurance on the future of the hospice since 2020, and when I wrote to NHS Fife at the end of January this year they gave no indication of the imminent plan to close it.

"The lack of transparency around its closure completely unacceptable and with the health board due to consider the future of palliative care delivery in Fife later this year I am worried the hospice will never reopen.

“I am calling on NHS Fife to reopen the hospice at Queen Margaret and to commit to keeping it open so that families caring for their loved ones can continue to be offered end-of-life care in a setting that works for them.”

Lynne Garvey, Head of Community Care Services with the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, said specialist palliative care service in Fife was reconfigured at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and moved to a single inpatient hospice which enabled a greater balance of care to be provided in patients own homes.

"This model remains in place and continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of patients," she said. “We continue to see a sustained reduction in the demand for in-patient end-of-life care, with very many people wishing instead to be cared for at home.

"Indeed, between 2019 and 2022 the average waiting times for an inpatient hospice bed in Fife halved, from an average of 3.4 days to 1.7 days.

"For those who are unable to, or who would prefer not to receive palliative care at home, there continues to be access to inpatient palliative and end of life care within wards five and six at Queen Margaret Hospital, in addition to the Victoria Hospice.

“As stated previously, a wider piece of work is ongoing to look at the future delivery of specialist palliative care in Fife, however, no decisions have yet been taken about any changes to in-patient end-of-life care.

"It is likely that any proposed changes will be taken to NHS Fife Board and the Integration Joint Board later this year.”