Covid Scotland: Public told to 'walk like a penguin' and warned to take care on icy paths to protect stretched NHS

Scots have been warned to take extra care when venturing outside on Friday, as plummeting temperatures risk putting the health service under further strain.

NHS Tayside has asked local residents to “walk like a penguin” to minimise the risk of trips and falls, while NHS Grampian urged people to avoid unnecessary journeys.

Cold weather can often place a higher burden on the NHS, as icy conditions risk falls which often end up in accident and emergency departments.

There is even more at stake this year, NHS Tayside said, as the service is already under considerable strain.

Members of the public walk through the snow on February 9, 2020 in Falkland, Fife. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Emergency departments around the country have experienced record patient waiting times in recent months, amid high demand and widespread staffing shortages.

A yellow weather warning for snow is in place from 2pm on Friday, across the Highland region and parts of Grampian and Tayside, with higher ground more likely to be affected.

Dr Andrew Kinnon, consultant in emergency medicine at NHS Tayside, said: “Winter is often a very busy period for our emergency department and we often see an increase in the number of patients with broken bones due to falling in the icy conditions.

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"This demand is on top of the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“To help protect themselves and the NHS, we are encouraging people when they go out to ensure they dress warmly, wear sensible shoes with a good grip and take care when on icy surfaces.

“If you want to stay safe whilst walking on icy paths, our advice is to walk like a penguin – bend the knees, point feet slightly outwards, and extend arms to each side. Walk flat footed, taking short slow steps and keep your centre of gravity over your feet.”

Dr Kinnon also asked Tayside residents to look out for older neighbours and grit areas around their home such as paths and driveways.

NHS Grampian urged people to avoid unnecessary journeys to reduce the risk of falls.

"Winter weather, in particular snow and ice, typically do lead to an increase in Emergency Department attendances, due to slips, trips, and falls,” a spokesperson said.

"Prevention is always better than cure, so when we experience cold snaps, we encourage people to avoid unnecessary journeys, especially if they have to travel on foot. Stay home, stay warm, and stay safe!"

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