Third Scots health board calls in army as NHS hit by major staffing crisis

A third health board has asked the Army to plug shortages as the country’s NHS staffing crisis worsens.

NHS Grampian has requested medical assistance from the military after shortfalls started to have a serious impact on services.

It comes just days after Health Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders asked the MOD to loan them trained medics for the ambulance service.

Officials at NHS Grampian yesterday confirmed they have asked for similar support.

They are still awaiting a response on how many army medics will be at their disposal.

In the Borders, 20 military staff have been drafted in to help the under pressure workforce in acute services. They take up their role today.

The health board tweeted yesterday: “This will enable us to increase our number of operations with routine elective surgery gradually restarting over the coming weeks.”

A further 63 medics, nurses and general duties troops are being sent to NHS Lanarkshire from today.

Meanwhile, whistleblowers at Scotland’s two biggest health boards also claim staff are struggling to cope.

Sources in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GG&C) and NHS Lothian have reported severe staffing issues are having a serious impact on patient care and morale.

And last night, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “Forget planning for winter pressure – winter is here.”

At one hospital, staff claim medical patients have been moved on to maternity wards.

Workers in Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital say the rota crisis was “a disaster waiting to happen”.

And they claimed wards at the hospital were closed because of shortages.

The health board admits six wards are shut but insists it is because of infection control.

The source also claims patients are regularly sent to Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock because the RAH’s A&E department is full.

They told how, one day last week, a paramedic had to administer morphine to a patient in the ambulance but that it was a further four hours before the patient was seen by hospital staff.

At the maternity unit on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus in Glasgow, a concerned husband told how his wife worked 12-and-a-half hour shifts but “every shift she works an additional 90 minutes because there is literally no staff”.

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital

He claimed: “My wife is a midwife and recently, and far too often, she works a full 12-hour shift with only two midwives when there should be at least 12 on the ward. It’s unacceptable.

“The Government know about it, the hospital know about it, the unions know about it. The pay has frozen and there is absolutely no reward or recognition for the staff when dealing with this. It’s shocking.

“Many staff are off with mental health issues due to the stress that they have all been put under. Patient safety should be paramount.”

Meanwhile, a senior staff member at NHS Lothian told how a number of beds had been closed because wards couldn’t be staffed.

The source also claimed there had been “increasing staff absences and a large number of staff leaving”.

The whistleblower blamed a combination of Covid-19, Brexit and recruitment and retention affected by “poor wages”.

The issues were flagged up as far back as March on the NHS Remobilisation Group but the group was effectively scrapped when Humza Yousaf took over as Health Secretary.

Third Scots health board calls in army as NHS hit by major staffing crisis
Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Jackie Baillie

Baillie said: “We’re now seeing the real effects of the failure to listen to those on the frontline and respond.

“We are getting loads of information about staffing shortages from the country’s two biggest health boards. Forget planning for winter pressure. Winter is now.”

She added: “Humza Yousaf has cancelled NHS remobilisation meetings which has had real consequences for services.

“Beds and wards have been closed because of health service and social care staffing shortages. There are already staffing shortages in NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders.

“Now we hear NHS Grampian, NHS Lothian and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde have similar shortages. There is clearly a national emergency developing.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said: “Humza Yousaf has completely failed to get on top of the crisis in our NHS.

“Staff are beyond breaking point. We are not even near the peak winter period yet we have three health boards requesting urgent military assistance.

“That is a direct result of Humza Yousaf’s delays and inaction. His flimsy NHS Recovery pamphlet and belated winter plan for our health service are simply not cutting it.”

NHS Lothian confirmed there had been 21 bed closures between October 4 and 18.

Jacquie Campbell, chief officer of Acute Services, NHS Lothian, said: “Staffing pressures caused by increased levels of general sickness and self-isolation as part of the pandemic have impacted across the whole system and in turn reduces the current number of beds that can safely remain open at a time.

“A range of measures have been put in place to help mitigate the pressures being faced across the system, hundreds of new staff have been recruited and more ways of streamlining services are being investigated to ensure we can continue to provide safe and effective patient care.

“In the meantime, we urge the public to only attend A&E if it’s a life-threatening emergency.”

Last night, NHS GG&C confirmed it was “exploring options regarding assistance from the Army”.

A spokesman said that while six wards were closed to new admissions because of Covid-19 infections, no wards are closed because of staffing issues.

He added: “To make clear, non-maternity patients are not being treated in the maternity ward.”

However, the RAH Community Maternity Unit is closed temporarily closed due to staffing issues.

A spokesman said: “At all times, the safety and care of our patients is our absolute priority.

“Across Scotland, there is a significant demand on health services including emergency departments and receiving units which are seeing an increased number of patients with a broad range of conditions.

“We recognise the strain this has put on both staff and services and will support both as much as possible.”

He insisted no ambulances were diverted to Inverclyde Royal Infirmary last week.

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