Non-urgent care will have to be paused in Scotland due to Covid-19, the president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has said.
Dr Jackie Taylor told BBC Breakfast that medics would have to focus on “urgent work” and the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine programme before other treatments could take place.
It comes as she claimed there will be a “cost” for allowing household mixing in Scotland on Christmas Day.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Dr Taylor said: “Everybody has been working over the last nine months to try and ensure that we catch up with the backlog, and we will continue to do that.
“But the harsh reality is that some places that are under pressure, some of that non-urgent work will have to be paused, we have to focus on urgent work and we have to be able to roll out the vaccination programme.”
She added: “There are hidden harms from Covid both in terms of operations and all sorts of other social and mental health and economic harms which we are all very, very aware of.
“As healthcare professionals, we want to be able to treat everyone, we want to ensure everyone gets the best of care, but unless we get a grip of Covid and really get on top of this then we won’t be able to open up the other services again.”
“We have to focus on getting on top of the acute problems we have at the moment.”
She added that did not condemn the Scottish Government’s decision to relax the rules for a day.
Dr Taylor said: “We have to remember our humanity and how important it is for some people to have had the ability to be with family even for a short time.
“I think it is absolutely right that the restrictions were only flexed for that day but, inevitably, there will be a cost for this.
“When there is increased mixing we know there is likely to be increased transmission, (Scotland’s) levels have never fallen to the kind of levels that we would have wished, so we are starting from a higher base.
“In addition, the new variant strain we are seeing does appear to be significantly more transmissible and that does give us great cause for concern, when we add that to the usual winter pressures we are really very anxious for the potential of a further huge surge of cases.”
She urged everyone to avoid household mixing over new year and remember all the rules of handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing over the Christmas period.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with health boards to ensure the NHS is well prepared for the additional pressures that the season normally brings, as well addressing the risks of a resurgence of coronavirus and EU exit.
“Our winter planning process includes assessing our readiness across all aspects of health and care, including Test and Protect, vaccinations, PPE supplies and the maintenance of essential services, including urgent and emergency.
“Our clinical prioritisation framework will help Boards to manage pressures while still trying to maintain non-Covid-related health care as safely as possible.
“We will ensure that urgent, emergency, maternity and vital cancer services will continue, as they have since the start of the pandemic.”