Tayside health bosses have started to postpone procedures as staff respond to a large surge in Covid-19 cases.
There are currently 174 patients in the region’s Covid-19 wards, which have space for 193 people, meaning means the health board is using around 90% of its capacity.
Managers are looking to add a further 68 beds as they move into the next phase of their plan to deal with a second wave of the virus.
Decisions on postponing procedures are being taken on a case-by-case basis, depending on how urgently the treatment is required.
The majority of the region’s Covid-19 patients are in Ninewells.
‘Immense’ staff efforts
NHS Tayside operational medical director, Dr Pamela Johnston said staff were continuing to deliver all emergency and unscheduled care, including cancer and some complex elective care, despite increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases.
She said: “We have seen an increase in community prevalence of Covid-19 in our communities which has resulted in an increase in admissions to our hospitals over the last two weeks.
“However, we still have a number of Covid-19 beds available before we have to move to the next phase, which will provide a further 68 beds.”
She said clinical teams had been planning for the current scenario for many months.
“Our plans are working well. So far, we have only had to stand down a small number of patients,” she said.
“This is down to the immense efforts of staff and their absolute commitment to their patients alongside a determination to keep as many services running as possible.
“However, given the reality of the situation we are now facing, if the time comes that we must move to the next stage of our plan, this will impact on our ability to deal with lower priority, planned care patients in a safe way.
“If this happens, our clinical teams are determined to restart these services once the numbers of Covid-19 patients begins to decrease.
“The public should be reassured that from the outset of the pandemic has always been to make sure everything we do is safe for patients and safe for our staff.”
Not stepping down ‘entire areas of care’
The health board is not stepping down entire areas of care in the same way as during the first lockdown.
Health boards in other parts of Scotland are responding differently. NHS Lanarkshire, for example, has temporarily postponed all non-urgent elective procedures and a targeted range of outpatient appointments.
A NHS Tayside spokeswoman said she was not in a position to identify the specific areas of care affected to date, due to the risk of identifying the small number of patients involved.