A Scottish health board has cancelled routine operations due to “extreme pressure” caused by full bed capacity and a Covid outbreak at two of its hospitals.
NHS Borders said staff at Borders General Hospital (BGH) in Melrose and Hay Lodge in Peebles were working “round the clock” to alleviate growing strain on the service, though stressed “urgent” procedures and cancer treatments would still go ahead.
Chief executive Ralph Roberts said emergency rooms were also “exceptionally busy” as he urged anyone who believes they require help to contact NHS 24 in the first instance unless they think their condition is life threatening.
He added “surge capacity plans” had been put in place as a contingency, but admitted staff were also dealing with high rates of Covid-induced absence.
Ward nine at BGH remains out of action due to a rising number of cases while Hay Lodge was shut to admissions last week.
In a statement, Roberts said: “Due to extreme pressures the Borders General Hospital (BGH) is at capacity. Our beds are fully occupied and our emergency department is exceptionally busy, with a number of people requiring admission.
“In addition, ward nine at the BGH and Hay Lodge Hospital in Peebles remain closed as a result of Covid-19 outbreaks and we continue to experience high rates of Covid-19 related staff absence.
“In order to alleviate these pressures, reluctantly all planned routine operations have been cancelled this week. Affected patients are being contacted directly. Everything possible will be done so that urgent cancer and emergency surgery continues during this time. We are truly sorry to the patients affected by these decisions.”
He added: “This is a very challenging situation and our staff are working round the clock to care for their patients.”
An estimated one in 18 people across Scotland are thought to have Covid amid a summer rise in cases.
Around 288,200 people are likely to have tested positive for the virus last week – which is up from 250,700, or one in 20 on the previous figures.
Scottish Government advisor Professor Linda Bauld said there was “hope” the number of cases would fall in the coming weeks thanks to a vast reduction in the number of indoor interactions due to schools heading off for their summer break.
Roberts also encouraged any family members to help with the discharge of patients and prevent instances of bed blocking where available in order to alleviate the pressure on stretched services.
“You can help, before you attend the Emergency Department please call NHS 24 on 111 first and they will signpost you to the right place to get the advice or care that you need,” he said.
“You may need to wait a while for your call to be answered or for a member of the team to call you back, but this can be done in the comfort of your own home. If you do need to be seen you may be given an appointment time to minimise the time you need to spend in the department. This also reduces pressure on our team.
“If you think that your condition is immediately life threatening you should call 999.
“If your family member is fit to be discharged from hospital, please help us to get them home quickly when they are well enough by being ready and available to collect them or support their discharge to their next place of care.
“Please understand that we cannot always offer the preferred next place of care in the location that you would choose, and we may ask you to compromise.
“Working with us to accept this means that we can get the flow through our hospitals moving, and offer care to the maximum amount of people who need it.”