No other Scottish health board is preparing to follow NHS Lanarkshire by moving to the highest risk level of “code black”, Humza Yousaf has said.
NHS Lanarkshire last week announced it was postponing some operations, including some cancer treatments, due to being at maximum capacity, with the army deployed to help the struggling health board.
But Scotland’s Health Secretary told MSPs that although all of Scotland’s other health boards were at a “significant level” of risk, none were immediately contemplating moving to code black status.
Mr Yousaf said he was unable to say how many cancer procedures had been cancelled, but said the number was “very, very small”.
Responding to a question from Monica Lennon of Scottish Labour about the situation in Lanarkshire, Mr Yousaf said: “We have deployed military assistance to support emergency care and to minimise delays for patients waiting for elective care and cancer treatment.
“The board is maximising theatre capacity and support from other boards to provide greater access for patients.”
He added: “Having spoken to NHS Lanarkshire, they are working extremely, extremely hard in terms of their theatre allocation space to ensure that they can reprioritise those procedures and those treatments as quickly as possible.”
He continued: “Having spoken to NHS Lanarkshire, they are working extremely, extremely hard in terms of their theatre allocation space to ensure that they can reprioritise those procedures and those treatments as quickly as possible.”
NHS Lanarkshire last week claimed it “does not recognise the term ‘code black’”, but instead announced that it had “moved to the highest risk level, which is black”.
Referencing the widely mocked statement, Ms Lennon asked the Health Secretary: “Can you advise whether any other health board in Scotland is warning that they too could declare a code black or – to give it its correct term – the highest risk level, which is black?”
Mr Yousaf replied: “I speak to health board chairs and chief executives on a very, very regular basis and they are all at a significant level of escalation.
“Since my last conversation yesterday, there was no indication that anybody else – any other chair, chief executive or health board – was going to declare the highest level of escalation as Lanarkshire has done.
“But that is a matter that is kept under review.”
He added that NHS Lanarkshire’s black level of escalation “is kept under daily review and will not be in place for a moment longer than it has to be”.
Last week, the health board’s deputy chief executive, Laura Ace, said: “NHS Lanarkshire is currently at critical occupancy levels across its three acute hospitals.
“The sustained pressure continues across our three acute hospitals and is showing no signs of easing. We are facing relentless pressures, bed shortages and staff shortages due to sickness, stress and self-isolation and university hospitals Hairmyres, Monklands and Wishaw are all at maximum capacity.
“The safety of our patients and staff is our top priority and we are working through short- and medium-term actions to increase staffing and also improve the flow of patients out of hospital. The military are providing additional support within our hospitals.
“We took the decision at the end of August to temporarily postpone the majority of non-urgent planned care procedures and, unfortunately, the current pressures mean we are having to further stand down elective (planned) procedures, including some cancer procedures, which we will reschedule as soon as possible.”