With the ongoing spread of the new omicron Covid variant likely to contribute additional pressure to healthcare services already under strain, NHS Fife is taking vital steps to retract non-urgent services in order to protect emergency and cancer care in the coming weeks.
Healthcare services in Fife remain under considerable strain due to a sustained and significant rise in the number of patients requiring care for both Covid-related and non-Covid related conditions. Despite these pressures, throughout 2021 NHS Fife has continued with much of its outpatient and non-urgent surgical programme to reduce the number of patients waiting for treatment.
Omicron, however, has quickly become the dominant variant in Scotland with case numbers rising rapidly and likely to continue to do so for a number of weeks. With this sudden increase in cases very likely to lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations and potentially impact on the availability of our own workforce, NHS Fife is moving quickly to mitigate the impact of this new variant on already stretched services and help safeguard urgent care and cancer services.
NHS Fife is taking the following steps:
- Postpone all non-urgent surgical procedures – emergency procedures, trauma and cancer procedures will continue.
- Postpone non-urgent outpatient appointments – patients affected will be contacted directly to advise of the postponement. Those who are not contacted should attend their appointment as arranged.
- Visiting restrictions to continue – limited to one individual. More detail on existing visiting arrangements are available at www.nhsfife.org/visiting.
NHS Fife Chief Executive, Carol Potter, said:
“Since being declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation in late November, we have been preparing our services for the likelihood of a significant rise in the numbers of patients requiring inpatient care due to the effects of Covid-19.
“With omicron circulating widely across the UK, and proving to be even more transmissible than previous variants, we need to act now and retract all non-essential activity to ensure our services are suitably prepared to respond to this new and evolving threat. This will involve us pausing non-urgent surgery along with non-urgent outpatient appointments. Cancer, trauma and emergency care, including diagnostics, will continue as before.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and we recognise the impact this may have on those who have already waited a considerable time to be seen. Unfortunately, we are still very much learning about this new variant and until we have a fuller understanding of its likely impact, we need to prepare our healthcare for a worst-case scenario, and this means taking the necessary action to protect emergency care.”
A vital part of reducing the impact of the new variant and reducing the number of people in Fife becoming seriously unwell, has been to significantly increase the pace of the ongoing vaccination programme. In the last week, capacity for Covid vaccination in Fife has increased by more 70% with around 4,000 Fifers vaccinated on Sunday 19 December alone. Almost 80,000 COVID vaccination appointments have been made available across Fife in the coming weeks as part of efforts to protect local people against the worst effects of the virus, and tens of thousands of appointments remain available over the course of the next three weeks in clinics across Fife.
NHS Fife Medical Director, Dr Christopher McKenna, is urging everyone eligible for a first, second or booster dose to book an appointment at a nearby clinic. Dr McKenna said:
“While there are many unknowns about the new omicron variant, there is clear evidence that getting fully vaccinated remains the best means of reducing your risk of serious illness from the effects of the virus.
“It is easy, particularly if you are young, to assume that you are not at risk of becoming seriously ill due to the virus, however, right here in Fife we have seen young people who are otherwise well requiring care in our ICU. Indeed, very many of those who have required care in our hospitals due to the effects of Covid could have very likely avoided this by taking up the offer of vaccination when it was first offered.
“In response to the spread of this new variant we have made literally tens of thousands of extra vaccination appointments available between now and early January and I would urge anyone who is eligible, whether they require a first, second or a booster dose, to take up that offer and book an appointment as soon as possible.”
Vaccination appointments can be booked in a few clicks by visiting: vacs.nhs.scot. There are also a number of drop-in clinics available across the Kingdom where no appointment is necessary. Details of all upcoming drop-in clinics are available on the NHS Fife website, at: www.nhsfife.org/dropinclinics.
For more information on the COVID vaccination programme in Fife, visit: www.nhsfife.org/vaccination.