A DECISION which will see the closure of the hospice in Dunfermline has been approved.

Fife Health and Social Care Partnership's Integrated Joint Board and NHS Fife agreed that the future of specialist palliative care services will see the continuation of the current model, using the purpose-built hospice at Kirkcaldy's Victoria Hospital.

Labour MSP Claire Baker accused NHS Fife of removing a "vital" service from Dunfermline but she was told West Fife will be 'better served' under the new model.

Palliative care consultant, Dr Joanna Bowden, said: "One of the assurances we can give is that palliative care for everyone in Fife, including in Dunfermline and West Fife and far West Fife, is better than it has ever been.

"Many people in West Fife can be cared for at home or where home is not possible, even at the Queen Margaret Hospital.

"The Queen Margaret is still very much a centre of palliative care in West Fife."

The new model will also see a palliative care outreach team work across Fife's communities, care homes and hospitals.

The health board says the changes will widen access to specialist palliative care for Fifers, but it has angered those who see it as Dunfermline's hospital losing more services.

Labour councillor for the West Fife and coastal villages, Graeme Downie, called for the decision to be delayed, saying information including transportation issues had not been sufficiently addressed.

His motion, which the board voted 13-2 against, welcomed increased capacity for palliative care at home and in a community setting but said a lack of information didn't allow the board to take a "fully informed" decision.

He said the impact of a revised approach on staffing, transport and the flexibility of choice had not take in the views of the general public.

"I am not suggesting we don't do this model," he said. "All I am suggesting is I would like a more formal report to the board before making the decision."

NHS Fife's medical director, Chris McKenna, said it was important to ask questions while making "brave" decisions.

"There is a real sensitivity surrounding this, we don't want to get it wrong as it feels very final. We are moving on to a different model of care," he said.

"I live in West Fife. I know how much this means to people.

"This feels like a fundamental switch but the team have gone above and beyond to speak to the people of Dunfermline to say we recognise this feels really uncomfortable but listen to how this will improve things and not make them worse."

Cllr Dave Dempsey said he was disappointed that the process had been "meshed with the broader perception" that Dunfermline was being "dumbed down" in favour of Kirkcaldy.

"In the context of palliative care and the budgets available, what we are being asked to approve is exactly what we should be approving," he added.

Fife Health and Social Care Partnership's head of community care services, Lynne Garvey, said more people were now benefitting from the service with 60 to 70 patients being looked after compared to a maximum of 16 or 17 previously.

"It is placing the person at the centre of care and in a setting they have chosen to be cared for and to die," she said. "People in the service have told us that home is where they want to die.

"For care at home to work, people need immediate access to responsive care and support.

"This enhanced model has made significant progress in that area. This is, without doubt, a patient and clinically led model of care."