Health board leaders ask for caution as region’s three acute hospitals rise beyond full capacity
Waiting times at A&E have risen to 10 hours, patients are told
Health bosses in one Scottish region have again asked the public to “consider alternatives to A&E” as all three acute hospitals exceed their full capacity.
Patients who do attend A&E have been warned to “expect long waits” of up to 10 hours – more than double the target time – as a result of “relentless pressures” in a warning to the public issued by bosses at in one NHS board area this afternoon.
It comes one day after new figures confirmed that the number of people in Scottish hospitals with Covid has reached its highest level in 13 months.
At NHS Lanarkshire, all three sites have been “working beyond maximum capacity” for a “few weeks”, according to its director of acute services, Russell Coulthard.
A three-fold increase in Covid in-patients, continued staff absences and other factors are all contributing to the situation at Wishaw General, Monklands and Hairmyres hospitals, he has said.
Coulthard stated: “Unfortunately many patients in our emergency department will be waiting over ten hours to be admitted due to the current overwhelming demand, which is well in excess of our target of four hours.
“Covid-19 numbers are on the rise, with 194 Covid patients across the three acute sites today. To put that in perspective, numbers had fallen to 66 in the middle of last month but have been increasing ever since and show no sign of levelling off or decreasing.
“The knock-on effect of that is we have staff absences due to Covid and we continue to face significant staffing challenges across 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."
Visiting was restricted to essential-only at all three sites earlier this week.
Coulthard said: “The safety of our patients and staff is our top priority and we are taking all necessary action to ensure safe and effective patient care and address the current pressures. We are making the best use of the staff and beds that are available to enable us to treat patients appropriately.”
Patients are urged to seek treatment outwith A&E, if appropriate.
Dr Calvin Lightbody, A&E consultant at University Hospital Hairmyres, said: “We are seeing exceptionally high numbers of people attending our three emergency departments. It is extremely busy and overcrowded but we are working our best to try to get through the huge number of patients.
“If you have an emergency condition such as chest pain, breathing difficulties, severe pain or major bleeding then you should come to A&E as usual and we are very much open for business.
“If you think you need to attend A&E but it’s not a critical emergency, or you think you need to visit a minor injuries unit, call NHS 24 on 111 day or night, where you will be directed to the right NHS service. Consider seeing your GP or local pharmacy or if you just need healthcare advice, then please use the NHS Inform website.
“Finally, if you do come to A&E, you may face a wait of several hours to be seen. Can I ask you to please be kind and considerate to our staff. We are working extremely hard in very difficult circumstances to do the very best we can for our patients.”