NHS Grampian is urging people to call 111 in non-emergency situations as front line staff face extreme pressures due to a higher than usual volume of acutely ill patients, delayed discharges and staffing pressures.
The health board has warned of long waits for anyone attending emergency departments and minor injury units across the region.
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary’s emergency department had dealt with more than 300 patients during Monday and Tuesday, with upwards of 220 attendances classed as “major”.
Consultant Rory Morrison said: “Patients having to wait longer than expected at the emergency department is disappointing and can often be distressing – we apologise to everyone who has been affected by this.
“NHS Grampian, like the rest of NHS Scotland, is continuing to face unprecedent pressure and strain across all its services – including those in the community, primary care and acute care.
Pressures affecting capacity and staffing
“These increased pressures – including those on capacity and staffing– mean we cannot treat as many patients at one time as we could previously and it is more difficult to discharge patients from the emergency department into the hospital or back to a community setting.
“We would assure the public that cases are triaged with those facing life-threatening situations – such as heart attacks or strokes – continuing to be seen rapidly for life-saving treatment as an absolute priority.
“It is vital that in order to assist us, members of the public call NHS 24 on 111 prior to coming to hospital, unless the situation is life-threatening – for example a suspected heart attack or stroke – in which case they should call 999.
“Our staff continue to work extremely hard under these pressures and we would once again like to publicly thank them for their incredible efforts.
Loved ones urged to collect hospital patients
“We’d also thank the public for their continued support and patience at this extremely difficult time – please remember our staff are human beings who are doing their very best to care for you as quickly and safely as possible. We are your friends, your family, your neighbours and we work hard to provide the very best service we can.
Mr Morrison added that relatives of those ready to leave hospital could also play a huge part in relieving pressure on front line medics and helping those who are acutely ill.
“As well as patients calling 111 before attending, we really need family and friends of patients to collect them from hospital as soon as they are ready for discharge,” he said.
“Under our Pick Me Up Project many employers have agreed to let people work flexibly to do this and by getting well people out of hospital more quickly we create admitting capacity for those who really need a bed. We really do need everyone to play their part, for the benefit of everyone in our communities and the health care system.”