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‘It’s not going to be an easy journey’: NHS Highland boss fears Covid pressures could have an impact on health sector for some time

Chief executive Pam Dudek has pleaded with the public to understand there's still pressures on the health system.
Chief executive Pam Dudek has pleaded with the public to understand there's still pressures on the health system.

The boss of NHS Highland says she’s “pleased” the pressures of Covid are easing but fears the impact on staffing the health and care system will continue for some time.

Chief executive Pam Dudek said the health sector still faces difficult times, despite restrictions easing across the country.

And she pleaded with the public to keep in mind that the health and care sector is still under pressure.

In this article, we cover Ms Dudek’s update to the NHS Highland board on the difficulties the health sector faces and how they are being tackled.

We also show how much coronavirus cases have been reducing by in the Highlands, although there has been a slight rise in deaths.

‘We still have significant challenges’

Ms Dudek said: “I’m pleased to say that we obviously are seeing some easing of the system.

“Although I say that with huge caution because actually, the main impact for us has been the effect on people in terms of being able to come to work, and the isolation impacts, childcare etc – all the things that happen when you find yourself either contact traced or indeed testing positive for Covid.

“It’s become more common with Omicron.

“So whilst there have been some signs of easing, we still have significant challenges in our health and care system and staffing in particular areas; and social care, in particular, has had a really challenging time in the care homes and care at home.”

How much are coronavirus cases reducing across the region?

The board heard that the number of people testing positive with coronavirus has been reducing since the start of this month.

Dr Tim Allison, NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy, said there are still “considerable challenges” with outbreaks in schools and care homes.

And he highlighted that Omicron was by far the most dominant variant.

But he added: “What we haven’t seen is a great rise in people who are seriously ill.

“And the impact on cases coming into hospital and cases in intensive care has only been moderate.”

Statistics show 5,253 cases were recorded across the Highlands in the first week of January compared to 1,301 this week.

And the number of patients in hospital with Covid has also been reducing with 43 patients in hospital on the 12th of January and 28 receiving treatment this week.

Fewer people have been seriously ill with the Omicron variant.

Dr Allison said the vaccination programme had been successful in the Highlands with the “great majority of our citizens really keen to get vaccinated”.

Pressures of Covid: ‘It’s not going to be an easy journey’

Ms Dudek highlighted that health and care staff would still need to work in a different way to follow infection control guidelines.

She said the pressures of Covid were expected to continue on the service but that the health board would be working hard to meet patient demand.

“The staffing impacts will continue probably for some time,” she said. “We will try our best to remobilise appropriately and we will absolutely be trying to get to the right place for people.

“But that is not going to be an easy journey.

“The plea is that people understand that’s the context in which we will be working so whilst we might be out enjoying ourselves again socially, and people might be able to do all sorts of things, we are still a very pressured system.

“We’re really keen to get to a much better place but we have a lot to address and deal with in that in that space.”

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