Second NHS board at ‘breaking point’ amid Covid case surge

NHS Lanarkshire said elective care services could be 'pulled back' to 'alleviate pressure'.

Second NHS board at ‘breaking point’ amid Covid case surge Google Maps
NHS Lanarkshire would be the second health board to cancel elective procedures.

A second NHS board is at “breaking point” as pressure builds on emergency departments and coronavirus cases rise.

NHS Lanarkshire wrote to staff to announce it was considering pulling back elective care services and bringing in more workers to help “alleviate this pressure”.

The health board’s chief executive said a Gold Command meeting would be held on Thursday with the senior team looking at ways to deal with the “difficulties for staff across both acute and community services”.

NHS Lanarkshire would be the second health board to cancel elective procedures after NHS Highland said all non-urgent surgeries at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness were not going ahead.

Raigmore has been placed on a “code black status” amid “unprecedented levels of demand” across its services.

Heather Knox, NHS Lanarkshire chief executive, said an update on what action would be taken to deal with the current crisis would be issued on Thursday.

She said: “While the vaccination programme has given us all hope, the challenges caused by pressures on our emergency departments, rising Covid numbers and workforce pressures, are causing difficulties for staff across both acute and community services.

“I am aware of the pressure this is putting on everyone and want to offer my reassurance that we are working to try and alleviate this pressure.

“In the meantime, I want to thank everyone for their continued efforts to provide the highest standards of care and support to patients across Lanarkshire.”

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said the Scottish Government had failed to control the spread of Covid-19.

She said: “If elective treatment is cancelled then waiting lists will grow ever longer.

“With NHS Lanarkshire at breaking point, Humza Yousaf simply must wake up and take action.”

Across Scotland, more patients attended accident and emergency departments in May than any time since January 2020, figures have shown.

Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “These claims are simply not accurate, and it is misleading to suggest the NHS is on the verge of collapse.

“We recognise the additional pressure NHS staff are facing as they work tirelessly to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and safe patient care. We are in daily contact with boards facing the greatest challenges and are monitoring the situation closely. NHS Lanarkshire has provided assurances that those of most clinical urgency, including vital cancer treatment will continue during this challenging period.

“We have allocated an additional £380m to health boards to help with costs arising from the pandemic. This comes on top of the £1.7bn already provided to health boards and health and social care partnerships last year.

“Although pandemic related pressures have eased over recent months, as restrictions relax we are seeing a rise in non-Covid attendances and admissions. We are encouraging people to consider options closer to home, by seeking medical advice online at NHS inform, by calling NHS 24, their GP practice, or by contacting their local pharmacy who can also help and prescribe treatment. 

“While the increase in NHS staff absences over recent weeks is significantly lower than previous phases of the pandemic, this reflects the overall increase in infection rates across the population – and it is a reminder that each of us needs to continue doing all we can to slow the spread of the virus.

“The remobilisation of the NHS is one of our number one priorities and we will publish a national recovery plan for the NHS within the first 100 days of the new government.

“The exceptional care that all NHS and social care staff have delivered throughout the pandemic and their efforts on testing and vaccinations are the bedrock on which we will build our recovery.”