A BORDERS health chief says the region is facing a “critical staffing situation” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, Ralph Roberts, NHS Borders’ chief executive said that staff shortages due to COVID-19 and other illnesses were taking their toll on the health service.
Mr Roberts said: “We continue to face a critical staffing situation across NHS Borders.
“Large numbers of our staff are off sick as a result of COVID-19 and other winter related illnesses. Although this is to be expected over the winter months, covid related absence can decimate teams very quickly due to the requirement for self isolation.
“This is having a very significant impact on our ability to deliver services, and certainly to deliver the quality of care that we wish for our patients.
“Unlike other businesses we cannot shut our doors, so in order to support our hardworking and dedicated staff through this incredibly challenging time we are asking the public to please play your part in helping us minimise the pressure on the already over-stretched system.”
Mr Roberts added that the additional pressure currently facing NHS Borders could last until the end of January.
“We expect these significant COVID related pressures to last at least until the end of January,” he said. “We are genuinely doing everything we can to maintain essential services and the situation remains under constant review.
“Our incredible staff continue to work tirelessly to treat the patients in their care across all our services and we are immensely grateful to them. Please continue to be polite and treat them with the respect they deserve.”
The health boss also provided guidance for anyone with a family member or loved one currently in hospital or who may be seeking medical attention to best help support NHS staff at this time.
He said: “If your family member or loved one is in hospital please consider how you can help them recover and get home. You can do this by helping to provide support for things like eating and dressing if they require help. This would be considered as an ‘essential visit’ and the nursing staff on the ward will be happy to talk to you to enable this support to take place.
“If your family member is fit to be discharged from hospital, please help us by being ready and available to collect them or support their discharge to their next place of care. Please understand that we cannot always offer the preferred next place of care in the location that you would choose, and we may ask you to compromise. Working with us to accept this means that we can keep the flow through our hospitals moving, and offer care to the maximum amount of people who need it.
“If you have been advised that your care or treatment has been delayed as a result of current pressures please be patient. As soon as we are in a position to update you we will. Please do not contact other health or care service providers, for example your GP or consultant to ask for further information as they will not be able to assist you. We do realise how inconvenient delays in treatment are but we are having to focus on the people in the most urgent need of care.
“This is an incredibly difficult message to have to give. I am sorry for the inconvenience and distress being caused, and I thank you for your patience, understanding and help.”
Members of the public are asked not to call 999 or visit the emergency department at Borders General Hospital except for in life threatening emergencies.
Minor injuries or non-life threatening health concerns should be referred to NHS 24 on 111.
Alternatively, self-care resources can be accessed via NHS Inform, advice on minor illnesses can be found through local pharmacies and mental health support is available through NHS 24 on 111 or Breathing Space on 0800 838 587 Mon – Thurs 6pm – 2am; Fri 6pm – Mon 6am.