Hospitals in Lanarkshire ‘beyond critical occupancy levels’, health board says

A health board has said three of its hospitals had run out of space as bosses rang the alarm bells at NHS Lanarkshire.

The board said on Wednesday it was “beyond critical occupancy levels across its three acute hospitals” because “relentless pressures, bed shortages and staff shortages due to annual leave, sickness absence and self-isolation”.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said that the move to the code black alert was an “incredibly concerning development which underlines the perpetual crisis in Scotland’s NHS”.

University Hospitals Hairmyres, Monklands and Wishaw are all at maximum capacity, the board said, which urged people not to turn up at Accident and Emergency if their condition was not life threatening.

Heather Knox, NHS Lanarkshire’s chief executive, said that the “safety of our patients and staff is our top priority and we are working through short and medium term actions to increase staffing and also improve the flow of patients in and out of hospital”.

“The current situation puts us back to the highest level of risk for NHS Lanarkshire,” she said.

The last time the board was put at the level was during the coronavirus pandemic in October 2021.

As cases came back under control the health board lowered the risk rating, from black to red, on May 4.

Ms Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, said: “The people of Lanarkshire have had to cope with a health board that is constantly under immense pressure, whilst this SNP government fails to provide the help it needs.

“While NHS staff work tirelessly, Scotland’s missing in action Health Secretary is nowhere to be seen.

“Nothing short of a long-term plan to support Scotland’s health boards and reinforce hard-working staff will do.”

Despite the risk rating increase, the health board said it would continue to allow current visiting arrangements but warned that would be kept under review.

Ms Knox said: “The impact of the current pressures is being felt right across the health and social care system, including GP practices which remain extremely busy.

“We recognise that our staff are doing everything they can and showing the highest levels of professionalism, commitment and resilience.

“We hope that the current actions being taken will help ease the pressures on our staff and services.”

NHS Lanarkshire said a code black alert meant there was an immediate and tangible impact to the health service.

In May this year, when the alert was reduced a notch, the health board’s chief executive said it could be moved down because the “the picture is looking a little brighter”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said that the “NHS remains under pressure and is still facing its most difficult challenge ever in its 74-year history”.

“We know that the pandemic is not over and that Covid-19 and other pressures will continue to impact the NHS for some time,” the spokesman said.

“We recognise the significant additional pressure staff are facing both within NHS Lanarkshire and indeed across our health and care services, at this time.

“We will continue to do all we can to seek to alleviate those demand pressures and provide support for their wellbeing.”

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