A struggling health board is urging people to stay away from its accident and emergency departments unless their condition is urgent or life-threatening.
NHS Lanarkshire said its hospitals face “relentless” pressures and three acute hospital sites are beyond full capacity.
The number of Covid patients in hospitals in the area reached record levels this week and is continuing to rise.
NHS Lanarkshire’s executive medical director Dr Jane Burns said this is putting pressure on services with many patients waiting several hours to be seen in emergency departments and urged people to consider whether A&E is the best place for them to seek healthcare.
It comes after NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde this week urged people not to attend accident and emergency departments unless their condition is “urgent or life-threatening” amid significant pressures.
Dr Burns said: “There are a number of reasons for the current relentless pressures on Lanarkshire hospitals but primarily it is the number of patients requiring treatment both with and without Covid.
“Our three acute hospital sites are beyond full with capacity regularly over 100%. This has been the case for a number of weeks and the situation is not easing. In fact, this week hospitals across Scotland including Lanarkshire have seen a record number of Covid patients.
“Unfortunately, this is resulting in many patients in our emergency departments waiting well in excess of our target of four hours for a condition that could have been treated by another healthcare service. It is also putting pressure on how quickly we can admit patients who require emergency care.
“The rising Covid number is also having a severe knock-on effect to our staff. We have high staff absences due to Covid and self-isolation which is resulting in challenges across all our health services and our staff are struggling to cope.”
She urged people to think of alternatives to the emergency department if their condition is not critical or life-threatening.
Other services include minor injuries units, their local GP or pharmacy or a call to NHS 24 on 111, day or night.
She added: “If someone does have to come to one of our emergency departments, they need to be prepared to face long waits to be seen, in some instances several hours.
“This can lead to patients getting frustrated with our staff but we ask that people be patient and be kind and considerate to our staff.
“We are working extremely hard in very difficult circumstances to do the very best we can for each and every one of our patients.”
Latest official figures this week showed that the number of people waiting more than four, eight and 12 hours at Scotland’s emergency departments has hit its highest recorded level.
Commenting on the figures, the Scottish Government said: “Unfortunately, the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has now reached the highest level since the start of the pandemic and this rise in recent weeks has inevitably had an impact on services like A&E.”
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