North’s acute hospital services are so busy that some patients are having to be moved to community hospitals further away for treatment.
NHS Highland says Raigmore hospital is particularly busy, with a significant number of very sick patients admitted over the past few weeks.
These are not necessarily patients with Covid, but the pandemic has added challenges to the situation with factors like physical distancing, the board says.
Health bosses have warned that this means that patients with longer-term recuperation needs are being transferred to RNI Inverness – or even as far afield as Nairn Town and County Hospital.
Dr Duncan Scott, NHS Highland’s director for medicine, said: “We are using all of our healthcare bed resources to allow us to care for patients.
“For some patients this may mean that they may receive their care a bit further from home than usual as patients who are recuperating are moved away from an acute setting to a more appropriate community-based facility.”
He said the board is working hard to increase care at home capacity.
“We are doing everything we can to effectively treat our patients appropriately and compassionately.
“Some, particularly those who have difficulty getting back to their normal level of health, will need more time in hospital or other care settings.
“The length of time a patient is in hospital can be reduced if they can be supported at home and we are working hard to increase care at home capacity.
“We are grateful to those who provide support to relatives at home.”
Dr Scott said members of the public have a role to play in helping the situation by making sure they are accessing the right service at the right time.
He said: “It can often be difficult to make the right decision about where to seek help, this is even harder in the current pandemic, but there are a number of services that can help support you and advise you where to find more support if necessary.”
Telephone advice is available via NHS 24, and GP practices will provide advice on managing acute illness or long term conditions.
Community pharmacies and minor injury units are there to help with minor illness or injury, and NHS emergency departments and the emergency ambulance service are there for the most severe illness and injury.
And people should not allow lockdown to stop them seeking help, health bosses stressed.
Dr Emma Watson, deputy medical director (acute) for NHS Highland, said: “The current lockdown has led some people not to seek help but those with new symptoms or worsening symptoms of illness should seek advice, but please consider which service is best for you and this may help us provide the best service to the population of Highland.
“Our staff are working incredibly hard to provide the best care possible to all those who are unwell and we thank you for your understanding during this time of high demand on our health care system.”