NHS Fife bosses have said healthcare services will be permanently changed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The health board is preparing to restart clinical services put on hold by lockdown measures, which saw a hiatus in all but the most urgent elective activity and referrals, and scaled down mental health services.
Services will need to be introduced taking into account social distancing measures, which will mean a reliance on digital solutions, including “virtual” consultations, and prioritising patients most in need of care.
Tricia Marwick, who chairs Fife NHS Board, said: “What we don’t want to do is to raise expectations too quickly that we can somehow return to what was before. We are never going to return to what was before because we have no normal but we need to take people with us.”
Medical director Dr Chris McKenna said preventing infection would affect every aspect of the health service.
“While we may be over the peak of Covid pandemic activity, the presence of the virus has changed the way that we need to deliver services and we need to recognise going forward that everything we do is sensitive to the presence of Covid-19 within our society.
“That is going to change the way that we deliver perhaps something as simple as attending an A&E department. This comes down to the rule of social distancing.
“What this will mean that going forward things will feel different, so virtual consultations will be the norm and things will probably feel a little bit slow within the system as we have to take account of all the infection prevention guidelines that we need to in order to protect patients and protect staff.”
At the start of an online Fife NHS Board meeting on Wednesday, Mrs Marwick extended her condolences to all those who had lost loved ones to Covid-19 and thanked members of the public for their support of frontline workers, and for following guidance aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.
She added: “I would urge people to continue to follow the guidance and keep yourself safe, your families safe and allow the NHS to return to some sort of normality.”