NHS Edinburgh and Lothians: Families asked to care for loved ones as hospitals 'stretched beyond capacity'
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Health chiefs said hospitals and GPs in Lothian are facing sustained and intensifying pressures with teams at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, St John’s Hospital, the Western General Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People all pushed to the limit.
Bosses said the healthcare system was under ‘extreme duress’ as a result of an increase in the numbers of emergency patients, large numbers of delayed discharge patients and an increase in respiratory illnesses.
Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Lothian, said: “These challenges are unprecedented, but they are also sustained. We need people in Lothian to help their own communities and the NHS.
“We have large numbers of people waiting to be admitted into a hospital bed, so I would urge everyone who is asked to provide care to their loved one to give the request some serious consideration.”
It comes as the primary care sector in Lothian experienced one of its busiest days to date on Monday (December 19) as it provided care to increasing numbers of adults and children, especially families with concerns around Strep A following recent increases in the virus.
Now the health board has advised some relatives may be asked if they can provide care to their loved ones as an interim measure while those packages of care to help in their own homes are put in place by their local Health and Social Care Partnership.
Dr Tracey Gillies, medical director of NHS Lothian, said: “Our teams will have carried out a robust clinical assessment before they discuss the temporary possibilities with patients and their families.
“We know most patients want to return home as soon as they possibly can, especially at this time of year. This would also help our teams and the patients waiting to be admitted. Also, if you have a loved one in hospital who has been discharged and requires to be collected, please do so as early in the day as possible.”
It follows a damning report which revealed the numbers of elderly and vulnerable people waiting for a bed or care support at home had returned to pre-pandemic levels. Up to 250 beds are occupied daily in the city’s hospitals with patients who are medically ready to leave hospital but there’s no care home place or a home care package available.
The health and social care partnership has faced criticism for proposals to cut care hours for older people and expansion of use of private care homes in a bid to reduce waiting lists.
Jenny Long, director of primary care at NHS Lothian, urged people to remember there were a number of winter viruses in circulation and to consider NHS Inform and their local pharmacist for help and advice, use over the counter medication, drink plenty of fluids and rest. Cold-type symptoms such as a runny nose or mild cough are more likely to suggest a viral illness.
If you have a sore throat, but can eat and drink, and don’t have a very high temperature then it is likely to be a common virus and there is no need to contact your GP.