NHS Lothian said its hospitals are under “immense pressure” as it was gripped by a “perfect storm” of staffing shortages, bed pressures and an influx of patients with complex and serious needs.
The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, St John’s Hospital, the Western General Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People are all close to capacity and patients are waiting longer than ever to be admitted.
NHS Lothian has asked for aid from other health boards, while NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Borders and NHS Grampian have all requested military assistance.
Calum Campbell, NHS Lothian’s chief executive, said the system was “under extreme duress”.
“We have asked for mutual aid to help ease the sustained pressures our teams and patients are facing,” he said.
“We are seeing high volumes of people who are seriously ill and need admitted to hospital right away. On top of that, we have increased levels of general staff sickness and self-isolation, which has placed serious pressures on staffing levels.
Mr Campbell said staff were being redeployed across the health board into the roles that need them most.
The pressures are also affecting social care services in the community across the four Health and Social Care Partnerships in Lothian.
NHS Lothian said patients are being discharged as soon as they are clinically well enough to go to the next stage of care which will help free up hospital beds.
Mr Campbell said: “For some people this might mean a temporary move to a care home, until the right care package, or care home of choice, can be provided.
“Family and voluntary sector support is also being sought to help patients to go home when they no longer require hospital care.”
NHS Lothian urged patients not to attend A&E unless their condition was life threatening, and to call NHS 24 on 111 first, day or night.
On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had decided there would be no immediate return of Covid restrictions despite the health care sector being under more pressure than at any time during the pandemic.
At Holyrood, the First Minister announced an investment of £482m in the NHS and care sector.