NHS Scotland placed on emergency footing

Non-urgent elective care to be postponed.

Non-urgent elective care will be postponed in Scotland as part of NHS Scotland’s ongoing preparations for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Speaking in Parliament today, Health Secretary Freeman said that NHS Scotland would be moving to an emergency footing for at least the next three months, in order to be ready to face a substantial and sustained increase in coronavirus cases.

Ms Freeman said the decision to postpone all non-urgent elective care had been made to free up capacity in hospitals, while work to double Scotland’s intensive care capacity continues as NHS Boards retrain staff and repurpose existing facilities.

Ms Freeman said:

“We have been clear from the outset about the challenges our health service will face in the weeks and months to come from coronavirus.

“While our NHS is prepared and has a proven track record of dealing with these types of outbreak, we want to free up capacity in our hospital settings, and ensure access to beds for those who need them.

“That’s why we have asked boards to start scaling down non-urgent elective operations from now until further notice.

“Vital cancer treatments, emergency, maternity, and urgent care will continue, and patients have our assurance that all appointments will be rescheduled as quickly as possible as we get through the challenge to our NHS that COVID-19 presents.

“While these are undoubtedly difficult times, we fully expect our NHS to ensure patients are treated in line with their clinical priority, and the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients has been a priority in all of our planning.”


Parliamentary Statement: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update to Scottish Parliament

  • Non-urgent elective activity includes procedures that are non-life threatening and can be postponed without a negative clinical impact, such as elective gallbladder and hernia surgery, non-trauma orthopaedic surgery such as hip and knee operations, and elective gynaecological operations.
  • Contingency planning for the supply of oxygen both in hospital and in the community is in place, and a further 450 new standard concentrators for use in the community have been ordered.
  • The Scottish Government is working closely with COSLA, Health and Social Care Partnerships and Chief Officers to see a reduction of delayed discharges of 400 by the end of March.
  • A national cancer treatment response group has been established to provide ongoing advice and support around cancer treatments, and ensure all appropriate measures are undertaken in the present situation to protect those living with cancer.
  • The NHS will directly contact people who are immunosuppressed next week and work closely with other social services to ensure they are supported.
  • Surveillance testing is being scaled up to monitor the spread of the virus in the community.
  • Monitoring will also continue through our laboratories and will be targeted on the following further groups:
    • admissions to hospital;
    • admissions to intensive care;
    • community testing dependent on circumstances, for example specific situations such as a nursing home outbreak.
  • Key workers such as frontline NHS staff will be tested to ensure they do not self-isolate unnecessarily.
  • In order to cope with rapid increase in numbers of people presenting with respiratory symptoms, patients will now be asked to contact via NHS 24 on the 111 number, rather than through their GPs.


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