NHS staff on annual leave urged to help health board facing ‘extreme pressure’

NHS Grampian staff have been asked to give up annual leave to help the health board which is facing an “extreme level of pressure”.

Health chiefs issued the plea on their official Twitter account, asking staff who may be on annual leave but available to work to get in touch as soon as possible.

NHS Grampian wrote: “We are currently facing an extreme level of pressure across our health care system, due to the number of acutely ill patients arriving at hospital and difficulties in discharging patients to community settings.

“We are asking all staff who are not working – and may be on annual leave – but would be available to work, to contact Site and Capacity as soon as possible.

“We appreciate this is a big ask, especially this time of year, and greatly appreciate any additional support you can give.”

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It comes after the PA news agency reported an accident and emergency doctor was forced to see patients outside the front door of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in Scotland’s capital.

A&E waiting times performance has hit another record low, with just 55% of patients seen and subsequently admitted, discharged or transferred within the four-hour target in the week to December 18.

In the same week, a record 1,821 people waited longer than 12 hours in A&E – an increase of almost 700 from the previous week. The number of people waiting more than eight hours increased by almost 1,500, from 3,045 to 4,536.

Dr David Caesar said: “We are seeing patients anywhere we can: in corners and corridors, and occasionally the best place for a private discussion with a patient who is well enough is outside the emergency department’s front doors.

“I can talk to them in the calm, away from the crowd, and then often send them home.”

Writing about the situation seen in his hospital on Thursday, Dr Caesar said it started the day around 300% over capacity, with 45 patients still waiting for beds.

He added: “There is a sense of impending doom as the prospect of Hogmanay in the capital looms.”

In a bid to free up beds, NHS Lothian has again urged family and friends to take in patients who no longer require treatment and are waiting for a care package to be put in place.

NHS Grampian has been contacted for comment.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said this winter would be one of the “toughest winters in the history of the NHS”.

He said: “Covid backlogs, rising cases of flu and Strep A, delayed discharge, and a cold snap are all compounding the usual pressure on healthcare services at this time of year – making this one of the toughest winters in the history of the NHS.

“Our £600m winter resilience plan is recruiting 1,000 extra staff, pumping £45m into the ambulance service, and expanding home care capacity to help ease pressure on A&E departments.

“We are also encouraging families and carers to help patients home where possible – getting them in a comfortable setting and freeing up space in hospitals.”