Covid Scotland: Country's largest health board warns it is close to capacity amid coronavirus spike

Scotland’s largest health board has warned it is close to capacity as it copes with a surge in Covid cases, as NHS Fife confirmed it has been forced to postpone some elective surgery.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said in a statement the number of inpatients testing positive for Covid across the health board had almost doubled in the past fortnight, with medical staff reporting accident and emergency (A&E) services being “busier than ever”.

It comes with as many as one in 15 people across Scotland estimated to now have Covid amid a surge in the virus. According to the ZOE study, which logs symptoms from app users, rates in Scotland are by far the highest in the UK.

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A&E departments in Glasgow are at capacity. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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Hospitals across NHSGGC, of which there are 35 different types, reported on Wednesday that 457 in-patients had tested positive for the virus in the past 28 days.

This figure is a jump from 277 cases reported on June 21.

And the health board, which according to the NHS provides for a population of 1.14 million people, reported its hospital occupancy is sitting at 90.6 per cent.

Dr Scott Davidson, deputy medical director for acute services for NHSGGC, warned members of the public to stay away from A&E unless their condition is very urgent or life-threatening.

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“Our staff are working around the clock to make sure we continue to see the sickest patients coming to our A&Es, but we’re over capacity,” Dr Davidson said.

“Services, quite frankly, are busier than ever, creating a bottleneck at the front door, and as a result patients unfortunately are having to wait long periods of time to be treated.”

Patients have been urged to access unscheduled and emergency care through NHS inform, NHS 24 and their GPs and pharmacists instead.

“You might still face a wait to use these services, but for most people you’ll be seen much faster than if you come to A&E,” Dr Davidson said.

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NHSGGC said strains on the health service are also down to more, sicker patients coming to A&E as a result of holding off during the height of previous spikes in cases and a current high level of staff absence due to Covid.

Dr Davidson added: “It’s absolutely crucial for the public to help us now by really considering how they access urgent care.

“Do you need to come to A&E or could you be better served elsewhere?”

The warning comes as NHS Fife warned services were being affected by a marked increase in staff absences due to Covid.

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Andrew Mackay, deputy chief operating officer for acute cervices at NHS Fife, confirmed the increase in pressure in recent days “has required us to temporarily postpone some elective procedures”.

The decision comes after NHS Borders announced on Monday that elective procedures were being postponed for at least a week.

Mr Mackay said: “The numbers of those in our care who have recently tested positive for the virus fluctuates as patients are admitted and discharged. However, the numbers have increased sharply in recent weeks. We are also seeing a considerable number of patients admitted for other conditions who test positive for Covid-19 as part of the admission process.

“Our services are currently being affected by an increase in staff absences due to Covid, along with clusters of the virus within individual bays and wards, which reduces patient flow through our hospitals. Similarly, clusters of the virus in care homes mean that it can take longer for patients to be discharged from hospital when medically fit for discharge.”

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Mr Mackay said urged patients to use NHS Fife’s emergency department “responsibly” as he stressed many of the highest attendances on record had been recorded in the past few months.

NHS Grampian is dealing with a rise in staff absences due to Covid, with deputy chief executive Adam Coldwells having said Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is continuing to face “extreme pressure”.

Covid admissions for the health board rose last week, averaging 13 a day over the past week. Covid hospital occupancy has continued to increase for NHS Grampian – a daily average of 103 over the seven days to Wednesday, compared to 85 last week.

NHS Tayside said hospitals were seeing an increase in the number of positive Covid cases, but stressed the number of patients admitted to critical care remained low and there had been no consideration given to cancelling operations.

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