Pressure on services provided by NHS Dumfries and Galloway is expected to last for a few weeks, health chiefs have warned.
The Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership (DGHSCP) is making “day by day” decisions on its capacity and strategies to tackle the high demand.
Strain on the board’s services currently is greater that seen “during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic”, driven by a wide combination of factors.
It said that while late cancellation of surgery was distressing for patients, it reflected “the prioritisation of those with the most immediate and pressing need”.
“Currently, a very significant proportion of hospital staff are supporting patients who no longer have a need for further medical treatment or rehabilitation,” Ms Julie White, chief officer of the DGHSCP said.
“It is essential that we do everything we can to return these individuals home or to a homely setting in order that we are able to provide the support to those most unwell patients – where immediate help can potentially be life-saving.”
“At this very challenging time, our priority has to be to minimise the risk of harm to individuals,” she added.
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The board expects pressures to continue for a few weeks, in line with the traditional flu season, and is now exploring expressly discharging patients.
Wave of pressure across Scotland
It comes as a seemingly never-ending wave of pressure on medical services has taken over the country.
NHS Grampian recently launched a social media appeal, pleading with staff on annual leave to return where possible, amid an unprecedented level of patients.
GP practices in Lanarkshire also announced they would open for extra hours on Saturdays throughout January to help relieve pressure on the health board, as it faces an “extremely challenging period”.
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“At this time, difficult decisions will need to be taken to ensure our staff can help meet the most urgent need and to ensure that our hospital has the capacity to deal with the next emergency attendance,” Ms White said.
“We will keep you informed of this position and the difficult decisions which need to be taken to deal with this unprecedented level of pressure.
“It is likely that these pressures will persist in line with the traditional flu season and we are unlikely to see significant improvement for some weeks.”
Those who are unwell and who cannot get an appointment with their GP are urged to check their symptoms online at the NHS Inform website, or call NHS 24 on 111 to access out-of-hours care.
Opticians – some of whom are open on Saturdays – can provide advice on eye problems. Pharmacists may also be able to provide expert help, with their opening times listed online on the NHS Inform website.