Relatives and carers asked to help ease NHS Lothian pressures

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An increasing number of respiratory viruses in Lothian is heaping extra pressure on the hospital system.

Cases of flu are surging and there are still high levels of Covid and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), as well as norovirus, causing hospitals and GPs in Lothian to be stretched beyond capacity.

Calum Campbell, NHS Lothian chief executive, said the sector as a whole was already experiencing significant pressures because of an increase in emergency patients and large numbers of delayed discharge patients, before this latest increase in infection rates.

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He said: “Our teams across the health and social care system are facing sustained and relentless challenge. The system is under horrendous pressure and the challenges our teams are facing are uncharted.

St John's Hospital is at capacity, along with others in NHS Lothian area.St John's Hospital is at capacity, along with others in NHS Lothian area.
St John's Hospital is at capacity, along with others in NHS Lothian area.

“We are experiencing more cases of infection – flu, Covid and RSV, as well as norovirus – than ever before.

“In order to maintain our patient flow through the hospital and retain beds for the most urgent of cases, we need to support people to go home quicker after their treatment and reduce any preventable admissions. That is where the public can help.

“Please take sensible precautions to prevent infection, especially if you have underlying health conditions or plan to be with those that do.”

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Calum is also asking relatives and carers to help ease the pressure.

He added: “As we move into the New Year, we’re asking people to play their part in easing this sustained pressure by helping to care for loved ones at home, managing illnesses properly and reducing the spread of infections, which can result in increased hospital admissions.”

To help reduce waiting times and free up beds for new patients, NHS Lothian is also appealing to relatives and carers of patients who could be discharged to provide interim care for them at home.

Dr Tracey Gillies, NHS Lothian medical director, said: “Many of our patients no longer require hospital treatment but can’t go home until an appropriate care package is in place or a care home placement becomes available.

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“We are urging families of these patients to please consider how they can help look after a loved one at home on a temporary basis. Our teams will be on hand to provide support and discuss their needs and will only allow patients to go home after a robust clinical assessment.

“People can also help by arranging to collect friends and family who have been discharged as early as possible.”

St John’s, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, the Western General Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People are all at full capacity.

Dona Milne, NHS Lothian public health director, urged people to help reduce the spread of infections.

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She said: “RSV and flu can be extremely serious for some people, causing them to require urgent hospital treatment. We have now reached extraordinary levels of flu in Scotland that we haven’t seen for many years.

“We are asking anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms to help limit the spread.

“Stay at home if you feel unwell and, if you do have to go out, please wear a mask. People should also remember to wash their hands and cough or sneeze into a tissue and bin it.”