Andrew Murray, Medical Director for NHS Forth Valley, highlighted the significant pressures faced by frontline staff as they deal with high patients of very seriously ill patients who require immediate life-saving care.
He explained: “We are seeing higher than usual numbers of very sick patients attending our Emergency Department who need immediate care. This means some other patients have had to wait longer than usual to be seen and we apologise to anyone who has experienced a long wait.
“Our staff are doing everything possible to reduce delays however local people can avoid lengthy waits in ED by calling NHS 24 first on 111.
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"They can arrange for you to quickly speak to a local doctor or nurse in Forth Valley who can provide immediate health advice or arrange an appointment for you to attend our Minor Injuries Unit or Urgent Care Centre so you don’t need to wait when you attend.
“So, unless it’s life-threatening or very urgent, for example a suspected heart attack, stroke or severe breathing difficulties, please do not come to the Emergency Department as you may be redirected to another NHS service or face a very long wait.”
People are advised to visit their local pharmacy, who can provide free treatment for many health problems without the need for a prescription, phone their GP Practice, where you can also arrange to see a physiotherapist or a mental health nurse, or call NHS 24 on 111 at any time to access healthcare advice and treatment far faster than they would do if they attend the Emergency Department.
Mr Murray said: “Heading into the summer period we had hoped we might start to see pressure on local services starting to ease but, instead we are as busy and seeing the kind of pressures we would normally expect during the winter months.
“This is partly been due to a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, resulting in high levels of staff absences across local health and care services and a similar increase in the number of seriously patients who require to be admitted.”
He added: “In addition, we have a high number of patients who are unable to be discharged from local hospitals as they are waiting on a package of care to enable them to return home or a place in a one of our local care homes, which are also facing significant challenges.
"This combination of factors is severely impacting on hospital capacity and ability to quickly admit patients attending our Emergency Department and assessment units who require to be admitted for treatment, resulting in longer than usual waits.
“To manage and address these pressures senior clinical and service leads from across local health, social care, GP and pharmacy services are meeting on a daily basis to review current pressures, identify potential solutions and take any necessary actions and decisions required.”
Mr Murray also thanked staff across local services for their efforts in tackling the most recent challenges.
He said: “Staff working in local health, social care and care home services across Forth Valley continue to work incredibly hard in the face of these ongoing challenges and I would like to publicly thank them for their incredible efforts.
“I’d also like to thank the public for their continued support and patience at this extremely difficult time.”