NHS Dumfries and Galloway is in danger of reaching a ‘code black’ level – an emergency state where overstretched medics have no more capacity and can only deal with the most critically-ill patients.
Three other hospitals in Scotland, Raigmore in Inverness, Aberdeen Infirmary and Dr Gray’s in Elgin, have already declared code black this month amid staff shortages, an increase in Covid cases, and running out of beds for patients.
“We are not enormously far away from that,” warned Jeff Ace, chief executive of NHS Dumfries and Galloway.
“All parts of our system are running very hot.”
NHS Dumfries and Galloway hospitals are now at breaking point because of numerous factors:
* Extremely busy A&Es.
* Staff having to self-isolate.
* Staff due holidays at this peak time of year – and holidays carried over from last year.
* Continued problems in filling job vacancies.
* Issues with organising care at home packages for patients leaving hospital.
This has resulted in scheduled operations having to be cancelled and an increase in delayed discharges, which was running at 45 cases last week.
Jeff Ace described July as being more like an extremely busy January or February for medics, and added: “To really emphasise the seriousness of this, the conditions that we are experiencing now are a result of lockdown harms, they are a result of covid high incidences, and a lot of staff isolating.
“Those conditions aren’t going to go away quickly.
“Our staff require to take holidays. This is obviously peak holiday season and, while we try and even that out through the year, our staff are entitled to more holidays this year because of the increased carry-forward from last year.
“We are also going to see – and are seeing – a significant increase in our population through tourism. This is going to boost some sections of the economy and may make some of our recruitment more difficult.
“But this also potentially increases our activity in minor injuries, and A&E etc, so this is a series of problems coinciding that are unlikely to be resolved very rapidly.
“So, we’re in quite a high-risk position for this summer as a health board – and that’s coming on the back of 18 months of pandemic intensity.
“This is a fragile period for us as a health board. Whilst I wouldn’t want to ring any alarm bells, I’m aware that a couple of health boards in Scotland have declared a code black state – which is the highest state of alert.
“To highlight the fragility, we are not enormously far away from that.
“This is really serious and will require all our focus this summer to help our teams get through this, and ensure that we continue to provide as safe a care as possible.”
Mr Ace gave the stark warning at last week’s Dumfries and Galloway health board meeting.