Covid Scotland: Lanarkshire health chiefs urge people to stay away from A&E

Health chiefs have appealed to people to steer clear of accident and emergency amid ‘major concern’ over pressure on the area’s three acute hospitals.

NHS Lanarkshire’s Executive Medical Director, Dr Jane Burns, issued the plea as record numbers of Scots are being treated in hospitals across the country for Covid-19.

Dr Burns is urging people not to attend accident and emergency at Wishaw, Monklands or Hairmyres hospitals unless their condition is “urgent or life-threatening” as the number of Covid patients in hospitals across Lanarkshire reached continues to rise.

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She 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.

Under pressure: A member of staff at University Hospital Monklands makes a telephone call on the ICU ward.. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

“Our three acute hospital sites are beyond full with capacity regularly over 100 per cent. 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 of how quickly we can admit patients who require emergency care.”

Covid hospitalisations reached a new record for the fourth day in a row on Wednesday, and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf apologised for the “suffering and inconvenience” caused as health boards face their most challenging time in history. At least 240 patients have died this year in busy A&E units.

Dr Burns continued: “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.

“We also have wards closed across our sites due to Covid which again reduces beds available to patients and creates further additional pressures while we are trying to recover services and treat patients who need our care.”

She added: “The safety of our patients and staff is our top priority and we are taking all necessary steps to ensure safe and effective patient care and address the current pressures.

“If someone’s condition is not critical or life-threatening we want people to think ‘is an emergency department the right place for me to seek healthcare or is there an alternative where I can still be treated with the same level of care’. There are alternatives including our minor injuries units, a call to NHS 24 on 111 day or night who will direct people to the right NHS service which will result in people being seen and treated quicker.

“If it is not a not a critical emergency or life-threatening and people can wait they can also access their local GP or pharmacy or other community service when they open.

“Finally, 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. We are working extremely hard in very difficult circumstances to do the very best we can for each and every one of our patients.”

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