A health board has urged members of the public to call 111 before attending an A&E department if it is not a critical emergency as services are under “unprecedented pressure”.
The warning from NHS Grampian comes as a higher than usual volume of acutely ill patients, delayed discharges and staffing pressures are causing significant delays.
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary’s emergency department alone had dealt with more than 300 patients on Monday and Tuesday – with upwards of 220 attendances classed as “major”.
Consultant Rory Morrison apologised to patients who have experienced “disappointing” and “distressing” emergency department waits and said that increased pressures, including those on capacity and staffing, means medical professionals “cannot treat as many patients at one time as we could previously”.
He added: “We would assure the public that cases are triaged with those facing life-threatening situations, such as heart attacks or strokes, continuing to be seen rapidly for life-saving treatment as an absolute priority.
“It is vital that in order to assist us, members of the public call NHS 24 on 111 prior to coming to hospital, unless the situation is life-threatening in which case they should call 999.
“Our staff continue to work extremely hard under these pressures and we would once again like to publicly thank them for their incredible efforts.”
Dr Morrison added that relatives of those ready to leave hospital could also play a part in relieving pressure on front line medics and helping those who are acutely ill.
“As well as patients calling 111 before attending, we really need family and friends of patients to collect them from hospital as soon as they are ready for discharge,” he said.
“Under our Pick Me Up Project many employers have agreed to let people work flexibly to do this, and by getting well people out of hospital more quickly we create admitting capacity for those who really need a bed.
“We really do need everyone to play their part, for the benefit of everyone in our communities and the health care system.”