Clearing the backlog of hospital operations will take years, the chief executive of NHS Grampian has said.
Professor Caroline Hiscox said the current wave of the coronavirus pandemic had left staff “exhausted”.
The recent spike in infections has put many parts of the NHS in Scotland under pressure, with some hospitals declaring “code black” and postponing non-urgent surgery.
NHS Grampian is urging people in the region to help relieve pressure on the health service, reminding patients they should call 111 rather than heading straight to hospital if they suffer an injury which is not life-threatening.
Prof Hiscox told the Press and Journal newspaper: “Every single day the clinicians sit down and discuss who is going to get access to [the operating] theatre.
“One of the things they discuss every day is how they avoid cancelling any patients waiting for surgery.”
She added: “When we are talking about recovering things like surgery we’re not talking weeks, we’re not talking months, we are talking years to recover the position of our surgical backlog.”
Admissions at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary are rising “significantly and rapidly”, she said, while many staff were becoming “exhausted”.
Prof Hiscox continued: “The number of patients attending through accident and emergency, or through their general practitioners, are more unwell and the volume of those patients are higher.
“We have had to reduce our bed base to comply with physical distancing.”