'Critical staffing situation' in Scottish Borders' NHS

The NHS is under pressure in the Scottish Borders. Credit: PA Images

The NHS in the Scottish Borders has a "critical staffing situation".

This message has come from the local health board's chief executive - Ralph Roberts - who has also warned that absences caused by Covid-19 and other winter illnesses are causing "a very significant impact on our ability to deliver services".

This disruption is likely to last until the end of this month, at least.

He 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."

Mr Roberts has asked for the public's help in easing the burden on NHS staff, including providing support on hospital wards.

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."

Borders General Hospital

Mr Roberts also asked people to be able to collect family members who were ready to be discharged from hospital by being ready to collect them or help them move to the next place they will be receiving 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," he said "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.

He added: "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.

Earlier this month, NHS Borders said that routine operations and other care would be delayed. Mr Roberts has asked people to be patient and assured them they will be contacted when with updates from the health board.

"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," he said

"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."

Mr Roberts also repeated calls to Borderers who do need medical care to contact the correct service for their needs; only calling 999 for conditions which are immediately life-threatening or 111 for other concerns.

He added: “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.”