Covid Scotland: 'Very long waits' at A&E and families asked to bring patients home amid extreme pressure on health boards

Health boards across Scotland have warned of disruption to patients as they continue to face “extreme pressure”.

Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 6:05 pm

NHS Dumfries and Galloway told patients to expect “very long waits” at accident-and-emergency (A&E) departments for all but life-threatening conditions.

Some planned surgeries may also be cancelled in the coming days.

In a bid to free up capacity, NHS Lanarkshire has asked the families of discharged hospital patients to bring them home while waiting for care packages.

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It comes as health secretary Humza Yousaf warned the next few weeks will be “among the most difficult the NHS has ever faced”.

And ambulances have been turned away from Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH), the Herald reported, and diverted to the city’s Royal Infirmary as the QEUH reached capacity.

Some 5,482 NHS staff were recorded as absent in the week to January 4 – the highest figure since the beginning of June 2020.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said health boards are under “enormous strain”, as figures revealed 80 per cent of patients visiting A&E departments were seen and admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours in the week to December 26.

This is an improvement on the previous week’s figure of 74 per cent, but below the government target of 95.

Vice-president Dr John Thomson said: “Emergency departments were overstretched prior to the new variant. But current winter pressures met with widespread staff absences mean staff are put under more and more strain on each shift, which affects the quality of care provided and both the patient and staff experience alike.”

NHS Borders has cancelled all routine operations for the rest of the week, and banned all but essential visiting.

"Given how contagious Omicron is and the high numbers of people requiring care there are significant pressures on our services; particularly when we factor in staff absences due to the virus,” said medical director Dr Lynn McCallum.

“To make sure that we are able to continue vital services during this challenging time, it has been necessary to make a number of difficult decisions such as pausing routine surgery and moving to essential visiting."

NHS Dumfries and Galloway said services re under “extreme pressure” due to staff absences and high demand.

“Patients should be aware that they are likely to experience very long waits for access to treatment at our emergency departments for all but life-threatening conditions,” a spokesperson said.

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“Although we will do our best to undertake planned surgical procedures, there is likely to be some disruption to this capacity over the next few days, with the possibility of a number of short-notice cancellations.”

NHS Fife has suspended all but essential visiting to community hospitals.

“Our hospitals are currently extremely busy,” said medical director Dr Christopher McKenna.

"Not only are our wards very busy, our A&E is very busy, as are the admission areas and our community hospitals.

“Patients are coming into hospital who are extremely unwell with Covid, and many of these patients haven't been fully vaccinated. Some of these patients are young adults, and some of these patients are also pregnant.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has also restricted all but essential visits to ward patients.

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