Code black status has been declared at two more hospitals in Scotland due to Covid-19 pressures, with non-urgent elective operations postponed.
NHS Grampian said both Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin, Moray have been at code black status in recent days.
The health board blamed mounting pressure from rising Covid-19 cases in the north-east, both through the number of patients needing hospital treatment and staff absences due to self-isolation requirements for the decision to postpone non-urgent procedures.
It follows an announcement from NHS Highland on Wednesday that Raigmore Hospital in Inverness had reached capacity and declared code black status – halting all non-urgent elective surgery.
NHS Grampian medical director Professor Nick Fluck said: “This is a dynamic situation, subject to change throughout each day. I can confirm that both Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s Hospital have been at black status (i.e. at capacity) in recent days.
“Choosing to cancel procedures or appointments is never a decision we take lightly; however it is our only option if we are to relieve some of the pressure and allow staff to concentrate on the most urgent and emergency care.
“I know it is distressing for people to have procedures or appointments postponed, sometimes at very short notice. I apologise to anyone who has been affected by this.
“We will work to reschedule these, but we cannot offer any guarantees at present about when this might happen.
“If you are accessing any healthcare services, please be aware delays are likely.”
Prior to the NHS Grampian announcement, BMA Scotland warned action is needed within days to tackle “a very high level of pressure” on the NHS in Scotland due to the surge in coronavirus cases.
The doctors’ trade union said hospitals may have to consider cancelling elective treatment unless measures are taken to ease pressure on staff.
Dr Lewis Morrison, BMA Scotland chair, told the BBC’s Lunchtime Live radio programme that decisions needed to be made quickly regarding staff absences due to the requirement to self-isolate.
He said: “Raigmore is an example of what might well happen in other places in the NHS in Scotland if we don’t take some action to deal with what is a very high level of pressure on healthcare, both in general practice and in hospitals, combined with rising Covid cases leading to a quite large number of staff having to self-isolate as contacts.”
Dr Morrison said any change in self-isolation policies for double-vaccinated healthcare staff would have to be safe for patients and staff themselves.
He said meetings were going ahead within the Scottish Government “with some urgency” on the issue.
Dr Morrison continued: “Within the next few days I think some sort of decision needs to be made to assure the continuity of healthcare services in areas under these kind of pressures.
“It’s as urgent as that I think.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We will continue to take scientific advice and are actively reviewing the evidence from the vaccination programme. We will use this to inform any decisions regarding current self-isolation rules, including those working in health and social care, and we will work closely with trade unions and professional organisations when considering next steps.
“While the increase in NHS staff absences over recent weeks is significantly lower than previous phases of the pandemic, this reflects the overall increase in infection rates across the population – and it is a reminder that each of us needs to continue doing all we can to slow the spread of the virus.
“The remobilisation of the NHS is one of our number one priorities and we will publish a national recovery plan for the NHS within the first 100 days of the new government.
“The exceptional care that all NHS and social care staff have delivered throughout the pandemic and their efforts on testing and vaccinations are the bedrock on which we will build our recovery.”