NHS Highland has stood up their internal incident command to manage the response to the significant pressures currently present across health and social care.
The number of COVID-19 cases across Highland has increased significantly.
This is impacting on NHS Highland as some of these cases are now being admitted into hospitals.
There is also the impact on a large number of staff, across a number of settings, who are having to self-isolate leading to gaps and pressures on services.
In addition to this it is also the beginning of the summer school holidays and planned annual leave.
Over the past week NHS Highland has also continued to see unprecedented levels of demand across health and social care services.
The impact of this at Raigmore Hospital, in particular, has been significant over the past few days.
Capacity has been reached in the hospital, there are long waits in the Emergency Department and it is known people requiring urgent care will still need to come in for treatment.
As a result, the hospital is currently at code black status.
The impact on services is also being experienced across the community teams both in Highland and Argyll and Bute.
Urgent work is taking place to ensure patients can be treated appropriately and compassionately.
Medical, Surgical and Clinical Support teams are meeting regularly to agree the actions that must be taken and discuss what more can be done to reduce the pressure on services within the hospital.
All non-urgent elective surgery has been cancelled.
Cancer and urgent cases will continue and where possible, orthopaedic and day case work will continue.
Not only will this help with the bed pressures but it will also reduce the pressure on those working in theatres at the moment.
Outpatient activity, with the exception of cancer, urgent, Allied Health Professional and diagnostics, has also been cancelled allowing staff to support other services.
Alongside this nursing rotas are being reviewed, enhancing NHS Highland investigation support, liaising with NHS24 and embedding additional support systems.
Dr Boyd Peters, Medical Director for NHS Highland said:
“We are doing all we can to safeguard services but we have had to make the difficult decision to cancel non-urgent work which I know many will find upsetting and frustrating. We are very sorry that we have had to do this.
“COVID is on the increase again but what is different this time is that we are seeing more medical and surgical activity at the same time.
“We also have a high number of staff having to self-isolate.
“If you are accessing services please be advised that your wait may be longer than expected.
“We are doing everything we can to minimise that but the pressure on the system is significant.
“We would also ask that you ensure you are accessing the right service for the care you need.”
Dr Peters added:
“I know this has been a challenging time for all of us and many just want to get back to normal but COVID is still having an impact on what we do.
“Please can I ask that you all continue to follow FACTS guidance – wear a face mask, avoid crowded spaces, clean your hands regularly, stay 2 metres distance from others, self-isolate if you develop symptoms, and book a test to help us limit the impact that COVID can have.”