NHS Grampian has treated hundreds of patients injured by slips and falls in recent weeks, prompting concerns for service provision from the health board that is already burdened by Covid-19.
Between December 21 and January 4, more than 500 people have been dealt with by NHS Grampian after accidents resulting in injuries.
A month prior, between November 21 and December 5, there were just 17 patients treated for injuries as a result of falls or trips.
The health board has now urged anyone who gets hurt as a result of slipping on frosty pavements or roads across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire or Moray to do all they can to make sure the accident and emergency service teams are not overwhelmed.
David Savage, registrar in emergency medicine for NHS Grampian, said: “Due to the current weather we are seeing an increasing number of cases presenting to the emergency department relating to minor injuries.
“If you do sustain an injury we are asking you to contact NHS 24 on 111 who will arrange a consultation with one of our specialists. We need to keep the emergency department for emergencies.”
Across the north-east, councils are working hard to keep as many roads and streets safe, focusing on priority areas.
However, it is not possible to treat every single surface and residents have been urged by local authorities to use caution and utilise public grit bins if they can to help their local communities.
John Lee, an emergency medicine consultant at NHS Grampian, said Covid means reducing the number of ice-related injuries is more important than ever before.
He said: “Last year, due to icy conditions, attendances at the emergency department doubled over a short period.
“This year, more than ever, we need your help to help us protect your emergency department.
“We need to ensure we are prepared to go out in icy conditions, to prevent injuries and protect yourself and the NHS.
“It is important we wear appropriate footwear for the weather, use any mobility aids that are needed and salt your paths and prevent yourself from stepping on ice unnecessarily.
“By adhering to these simple measures, you can help protect yourself from injury.”
Conservative West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie said: “Even in mild winters, there is a huge spike in the number of people taken to hospital after a slip or fall.
“The elderly are most at risk of severe injuries, but also from the virus.
“We know transmission is happening in hospitals despite the best efforts of staff.
“So calling 111 in the event of minor injuries is doubly important.
“Leaving Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for the most serious accidents will save lives and free up precious resources for the fight against Covid.”
Stephen Flynn, the SNP MP for Aberdeen South, said he has received a great deal of concerned correspondence with constituents worried about treacherous conditions.
He added: “I’ve had numerous people get in touch over recent days who have been unable to leave their homes because they don’t feel it’s safe enough to go for a walk – that’s simply not good enough.”
And Brian Sloan, chief executive of the charity Age Scotland, said the figures were “extremely worrying” for pensioners.
He said: “Not only are older people more vulnerable to falls, but they can have serious consequences, leading to hip fractures, and considerable pain and distress.
“A fall can also have a long-term impact on someone’s health and well-being, and result in a loss of mobility and independence.
“This is especially concerning when we know the NHS is under incredible strain due to the pandemic, and many people are worried about being admitted to hospital.
“With more cold weather on the way, we would urge everyone, no matter your age, to take extra care when out and about.
“We can also all help by being good neighbours during this difficult time.
“If you know someone who is older or has mobility issues, then they might appreciate some help with shopping or daily errands so they don’t risk injury on icy pavements.
“Many older people will also be feeling isolated as a result of the cold snap and new lockdown, especially if they live alone.
“A friendly phone call or note through the door can make a real difference to someone who is stuck at home.”