Belford Hospital still experiencing ‘raised levels of activity’ says NHS Highland

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Health chiefs this week confirmed that the largest hospital in the Highlands was no longer on ‘code black’ status after reaching capacity last week amid increasing Covid cases, but the Belford Hospital in Fort William continues to remain busy.

Raigmore Hospital in Inverness had reached capacity last week, which saw all non-urgent elective surgery being cancelled, as was outpatient activity – except certain treatments, including cancer and urgent procedures.

An NHS Highland spokesperson told us on Tuesday: ‘Last week we highlighted that Raigmore Hospital was at code black status and that work was taking place to ensure we can treat our patients appropriately and compassionately.

‘A whole system approach has been adopted by colleagues to ensure we continue to deliver services to the most critically ill and vulnerable patients whilst managing the widespread pressures.

‘Over the weekend we have continued to experience high levels of demand across health and social care services.

‘We want to thank all of our staff and contracted services for their hard work and dedication across all parts of the health and social care service through challenging times. We have reassessed the position and no longer consider ourselves to be on code black. ‘

Asked about the Belford Hospital, the spokesperson told us: ‘All our services are running and we are experiencing raised levels of activity.

We are working closely together with colleagues and the other hospitals across NHS Highland to ensure we continue to deliver services to patients and support to our staff.’

However, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has raised concerns about the cancellation of non-elective surgery at Raigmore Hospital directly with Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr Cameron asked the First Minister what measures she was taking to ensure staffing levels in the health service do not continue to deteriorate, following her Covid-19 update to MSPs on Tuesday in the Scottish Parliament.

Donald Cameron MSP Photograph: Wullie Marr

The Scottish Conservative MSP said: ‘I regret that the First Minister chose to indulge in a bit of political knock-about rather than attempt to provide a serious answer to what was a very serious question.

‘The fact is that we have a real staffing problem in the health service due to hardworking NHS workers having to self-isolate. That could have very serious consequences for local people who require treatment.

‘I hope that Nicola Sturgeon reflects on what I asked, and quickly provides an update as to what the Scottish Government actually intends to do. This issue is simply too important for the kind of response she provided.’

Meanwhile, the Urgent Care Centre at Portree Hospital on Skye was temporarily suspended overnight from 8pm on Tuesday until 8am yesterday (Wednesday) and then again from 8pm last night (Wednesday until 8am this morning, Thursday).  Urgent Care was still able to be accessed during this time by calling NHS24.

NHS Highland told us: ‘The decision has been made following ongoing staffing pressures which directly impacts patient safety. The urgent care centre will be open between 8am and 8pm on both Tuesday and Wednesday.  Normal 24-hour opening will resume from 8am on Thursday July 15.

‘NHS Highland would like to assure the public that this decision was not taken lightly. The management team exhausted all avenues to try and provide cover, and will continue to take every possible action to maintain services and fill vacant shifts.

‘There is no change to accessing emergency services and people should dial 999 if they experience a medical emergency and the Scottish Ambulance Service will respond as appropriate.’