Stretched NHS is facing 'ticking time bomb'

Fears have been raised that a “ticking time bomb” of non-covid health conditions is being created as local services are stretched to capacity.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 1:35 pm
The Borders General Hospital in Melrose. Photograph: Bill McBurnie

It comes after NHS Borders cancelled all scheduled routine operations last week amid a “very high demand” for in-patient beds, including rising numbers of patients being admitted with Covid-19.

The health board says it is facing “significant pressure” in the Borders General Hospital and across the wider health system.

There were 16 patients being treated for Covid-19 in the BGH on Monday, August 16.

In a statement issued last Wednesday, it said: “As a result we have taken the difficult decision to cancel all scheduled routine operations for the remainder of this week and next week.

"We fully recognise the distress caused by this unavoidable decision and are truly sorry. We can assure you that the situation remains under constant review.”

It said that all urgent, cancer and emergency surgeries would continue. However, a number of patients who thought their scheduled operations were urgent are among those who have had them cancelled.

A spokesperson for NHS Borders told The Southern: "When we make difficult decisions to cancel operations we do so using national guidance which states criteria to identify cases that are clinically urgent in order to ensure that these operations go ahead.

“Last week we took the difficult decision to cancel all scheduled routine operations until August 22."All procedures which are classified as urgent according to the national criteria, cancer and emergency surgeries are continuing during this time.”

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said it could not be “dismissed” as non-urgent treatment being cancelled.

"The NHS doesn't carry out surgery that isn’t needed,” he said. "Many people will be in pain waiting for their operations which may already have been delayed a long-time.”

Raising concerns over the long-term impact of covid on local NHS services, Mr Smyth added: “We know this doesn’t just affect operations – other services such as cancer screening has been scaled back and I fear we are creating a real ticking time bomb when it comes to other health conditions because NHS staff are so stretched.”