A FIFE MSP has called for a delay in a decision which is likely to see the permanent closure of the hospice at Queen Margaret Hospital.

Claire Baker said was "angry and disappointed" at NHS Fife's announcement this week that it hopes to continue the current palliative care model which would see the purpose-built hospice at Kirkcaldy's Victoria Hospital complemented with an outreach team working across Fife’s communities, care homes, hospitals and hospice.

The proposals – which the health board say will widen access to specialist palliative care for people across the Kingdom – will be considered by the Integration Joint Board and NHS Fife Board later this month.

A single inpatient hospice has been in operation 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. It returned to Kirkcaldy in February.

Labour politician Claire Baker, whose petition against the Dunfermline hospice's closure attracted over 2,000 signatures, has called for more consultation before a final decision is taken.

“I am angry and disappointed that a decision to permanently close the Hospice at Queen Margaret appears to have been reached behind closed doors," she said.

"I asked NHS Fife to keep me informed throughout this process and specifically for information on when consultation and a final decision would take place, but my correspondence has been ignored and the recent briefing for elected members seems little more than box ticking as it becomes increasingly clear a decision had already been taken.

“The lack of transparency from NHS Fife around the whole process is very concerning. Their press release talks of “a comprehensive programme of engagement” but for most people the news of this permanent closure will come as both a shock and a disappointment.

"I am urging NHS Fife and the IJB to postpone any decision at least until proper public consultation has taken place."

Ms Baker said that while she recognises the need to offer patients and their families a choice in terms of where they wish to be cared for, she said there must be a "real choice" for everyone in need of care.

She added: "Removing the option of hospice care in Dunfermline is restricting that choice, and the remaining end of life care beds are not a comparable setting to the specialist hospice ward.”

NHS Fife say the move to a single hospice during the pandemic allowed specialist palliative care staff to provide outreach care in the community.

The team can now care for as many as 60 patients at any time, across communities, care homes, hospitals and the hospice.

For those who are unable to, or who would prefer to be cared for in hospital or require hospice care, there continues to be access to inpatient palliative and end of life care beds in five community hospitals across Fife, including the Queen Margaret Hospital.

Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s Head of Community Care Services, Lynne Garvey, added: “We want to ensure that patients across the whole of Fife, their families and loved ones, can get access to the very best care and support possible, particularly in the final months and weeks of their life.

“It’s vitally important that we provide patients with greater choice around all aspects of their care, and we are now in a position to do this by expanding the way we deliver specialist palliative care across Fife, giving patients and families greater choice.

“The proposals will also help us better meet the needs of our population by widening and ensuring equity of access, while enabling far greater numbers of patients in Fife to receive specialist palliative care.”