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NHS Highland suspends orthopaedic elective work for December and January due to significant pressure across primary and secondary care for patients in Strathspey and Badenoch and the rest of the region

By Ian Duncan

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Raigmore Hospital.
Raigmore Hospital.

NHS Highland’s clinical emergency pathways have been under significant pressure across primary and secondary care. As a result of these pressures the organisation is struggling to maintain all the services they are currently aiming to deliver as a part of the remobilisation of planned elective care.

Katherine Sutton, chief officer for acute services, said: “Within acute services we have had to act to relieve some of this pressure, both immediately and with rapid but sustainable measures to improve the situation.

“Our immediate action must focus on the safety of the patients in the hospital and has therefore led to a pause in elective orthopaedic activity for patients who require an inpatient bed as part of their care.

“We have taken the decision to pause the orthopaedic elective programme through December and January. This will free up beds allowing us to meet the demand we need for our emergency and trauma patients.”

Mrs Sutton said it was a very difficult decision which had not been taken lightly and added: "We know it will be extremely disappointing to patients who have been waiting too long for their orthopaedic operations, often in pain, and to our colleagues in orthopaedics who are determined to help their patients.

“We know that GP colleagues will also be concerned about the impact on their patients. We are working rapidly to stabilise this situation and wish to apologise to all patients who have been affected by this recent decision to pause our elective orthopaedic operations. We hope to reinstate orthopaedic operating as soon as it is safe to do so and will keep the situation under continuous review.

“All patients are being contacted to advise them of the rescheduling of their operations. We will of course work closely with our colleagues in primary care to offer these patients additional support during this difficult period, especially as some of them may start experiencing worsening of their symptoms.”

The evolving situation with Covid-19, in particular the omicron variant, is a major concern as it is likely that it will have a significant impact on the provision of elective services across the NHS and lead to further delays.

NHS Highland is therefore monitoring the situation and any future changes to current plans will be communicated in a timely manner. The priority is the safety of patients and staff.

Orthopaedic patients have access to a freephone helpline – 0800 0280492 – which is open Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

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