NHS Highland medical director Dr Boyd Peters says the board is working to protect most vital services and asks the public for understanding during this period of high Covid infection rates
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NHS Highland has confirmed that people waiting for non-urgent treatment will have to wait 'longer than any of us would wish'.
In a move to protect "vital services", the board said will be concentrating on critical care, emergency admissions and cancer care.
The board is appealing to the public for its support and understanding as it continues to face unprecedented pressures across the health and social care system.
In a statement, from Dr Boyd Peters, NHS Highland’s medical director, he said the board now had to 'move back' to a position to provide vital services.
Dr Boyd Peters, NHS Highland’s Medical Director, said: “Our entire health and social care teams are working harder than ever to ensure we continue to deliver health and social care to people across Highland, Argyll and Bute.
“The pressure on services is unprecedented, which is exacerbated by an increased prevalence of Covid-19.
"The current levels of infection in our communities are impacting on our staff availability either due to test and protect isolation requirements or due to illness. Our capacity to deliver the full range of services is becoming more challenging each day.
“We have to move back to a position where we protect the most vital of our services. This begins with critical care, emergency admissions and cancer care. Unfortunately, this means that people awaiting care outwith these groups are likely to have a longer wait than any of us would wish.
“We understand that this may cause anxiety and upset among patients who have been waiting for operations, and we never make any decision to postpone surgery lightly. We apologise to all patients who we have had to reschedule for their operation.
“We hope the public understand the position we find ourselves in.
"Our colleagues are working so hard to ensure the people who have the greatest level of need receive the care and support they require.
"We have explored options for mutual aid to relieve some of the pressure on the system; however, these pressures are being felt across the wider NHS Scotland services."
He added: "Our workforce has been very flexible in responding to the demands the services have been managing over recent weeks and months. We are extremely grateful to them for their ongoing hard work and delivery of high-quality patient care, and we know the vast majority of the public share our gratitude to them.”