NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, the largest health board in Scotland, has announced that it will temporarily pause non-urgent elective operations in an effort to prioritise urgent treatment and cancer care.
This decision has been prompted by staffing pressures currently being experienced by hospitals in the region. Other health boards including Ayrshire & Arran and Borders have taken similar steps in response to these pressures. Additionally, NHS Fife has stated that it will be reducing its elective surgery capacity.
Winter is here
This decision, says the board, comes in the wake of statements by the First Minister of Scotland indicating that the current winter season has been the most challenging for the NHS in Scotland to date.
“Our services, like the whole of NHS Scotland, are facing major pressures, including significant COVID, flu and norovirus cases. To support our A&E departments, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has taken the decision to pause additional and non-urgent elective procedures to prioritise urgent treatment and cancer care.
This decision was not taken lightly and is under constant review. We would like to apologise to patients waiting for an elective procedure, we will make every possible effort to offer them an alternative date at the first opportunity.”
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde has emphasised that the decision to pause non-urgent elective operations was not taken lightly and that staff are doing all they can to meet the demand for healthcare services.
Furthermore, NHS Fife has confirmed that while elective capacity has been considerably reduced, it has not halted the entire elective surgical program as it continues to strive to deliver safe patient care during what is expected to be a particularly busy winter.
In a related development, NHS Ayrshire & Arran announced on Tuesday that it would be halting routine inpatient elective surgery for a period of three weeks due to the “extreme” pressures currently being experienced by the health service. Lastly, on Friday, NHS Borders announced that it would pause “all routine operations at Borders General Hospital until further notice.”.
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has issued a warning regarding the current capacity of Scotland’s hospitals, stating that they are nearing full capacity with bed occupancy surpassing 95% during the last week. The increase in demand has been attributed to elevated levels of influenza during the winter season, a rise in COVID-19 infections, and a heightened incidence of Strep A.
In response to this situation, the Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, has announced that the government will be allocating £8 million to alleviate pressure on hospitals by facilitating the transfer of patients to care homes. Additionally, NHS 24 has announced plans to recruit approximately 200 new staff members by the end of March.
Guidance has been provided to all health boards emphasising the need to take any necessary steps to ensure the protection of critical and life-saving care within their respective areas.