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‘Desperate situation’: NHS Grampian sends an SOS to off-duty staff for cover at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

Staff nurses working in the corridor in the Acute Dependency Unit at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south-west London, as NHS Grampian sets out how it will respond to nursing strikes and which services will be available.
NHS Grampian has said it is 100% full in some places. Image: PA

Bosses at NHS Grampian have made a very public plea asking for staff on off-duty or holiday to come into work.

The health board said it was straining under the pressure of the numbers of patients in hospitals and in health care settings.

It made a call on social media site Twitter for members of hospital and care staff to give up holidays and come into work to help out.

It is understood that Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and home care services are under the most pressure.

The problem appears to have bottlenecked, due to patients being unable to be discharged from hospital as there is a lack of health at home or in residential settings.

‘Call for all staff available’

A message from NHS Grampian on social media said: “Call for all available staff!

“We are currently facing an extreme level of pressure across our health care system, due to the number of acutely ill patients arriving at hospital and difficulties in discharging patients to community settings.”

It continued: “We are asking all staff who are not working – and may be on annual leave – but would be available to work, to contact Site and Capacity as soon as possible.

“We appreciate this is a big ask, especially this time of year, and greatly appreciate any additional support you can give.”

A spokesman for NHS Grampian declined to comment further, saying the tweet spoke for itself.

Dr Iain Kennedy, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland said: “This is clearly a completely desperate situation for the board in NHS Grampian, for patients and for staff.

“If there was any doubt the NHS in Scotland is broken, then this type of example should close that debate once and for all.

People are exhausted

“Even if this was due to exceptional circumstances it would be hugely worrying, but we have heard first hand from doctors across Scotland just how short staffed and stretched services are on a daily basis.”

The Inverness-based medic continued: “Those working in our health service are exhausted, burnt out and broken, yet I am sure there are many who will answer the call and yet again show dedication and commitment well beyond what might reasonably be expected.

Dr Iain Kennedy, chairman of the BMA in Scotland. Image: BMA.

“But I fear the consequences for our workforce who simply can’t go on bailing out an NHS that isn’t working now and hasn’t for some time.

“We must focus on healthcare worker wellbeing in the short term and properly invest in and support those working across hospitals and GP surgeries at this time of huge pressure on services.”

He added: “And in order to build an NHS in Scotland that can survive in the longer term, we simply can’t put off the need for a serious, depoliticised national conversation on the future of Scotland’s health service and what we ask it to deliver”

The Scottish Tories say the system is completely broken – calling for the resignation of the health secretary.

Scottish Conservative shadow public health minister and North East MSP Tess White said: “This desperate plea from NHS Grampian exposes how deep the crisis is within our A&E departments.

Situation ‘out of control’

“The sheer scale of this shocking situation has spiralled so much out of control that exhausted staff are now being asked to come in on their days off when they should be enjoying time with their families.

“Staff have been let down at every turn by Humza Yousaf’s flimsy recovery plan and his failure to get a grip of the catastrophic predicament which NHS Grampian has been left in.

More staff are required to deal with the volumes of patients in hospital. Image: Scott Baxter.

“The system is completely broken as we head into the new year and dedicated staff and worried patients are having to pay the heavy price for the SNP’s mismanagement of our hospitals.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s New Year resolution should be to sack Humza Yousaf immediately as health secretary.”

Humza Yousaf: ‘We expect health boards to do what is necessary’

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Covid backlogs, rising cases of flu and Strep A, delayed discharge, and a cold snap are all compounding the usual pressure on healthcare services at this time of year – making this one of the toughest winters in the history of the NHS.

“Emergency department staff up and down the country continue to carry out exceptional work in the face of sustained pressure and we are determined to support Health Boards through what will be an extremely challenging winter.

“We expect health boards to do what is necessary to deal with the current pressures.”

He continued: “Our £600m winter plan which will see us recruit 1,000 new NHS staff and our £50 million Unscheduled Care Collaborative looks to reduce pressure on A&E through scheduled urgent appointments, Hospital at Home and directing people to more appropriate care.

“We are also encouraging families and carers to help patients home where possible – getting them in a comfortable setting and freeing up space in hospitals.”