NHS Lothian said today that its hospital sector was under immense pressure and urged patients not to attend A&E unless their condition was life threatening.

Calum Campbell, Chief Executive, NHS Lothian, said a request has been submitted for mutual aid from other health boards after services became caught in the grip of a “perfect storm” caused by staffing and bed pressures, combined with high volumes of patients presenting with complex and serious cases.

Mr Campbell said the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, St John’s Hospital, the Western General Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People were all close to capacity and patients were waiting longer than ever before to be admitted.

He added: “Our hospital system is under extreme duress. We have asked for mutual aid to help ease the sustained pressures our teams and patients are facing. 

“We are seeing high volumes of people who are seriously ill and need admitted to hospital right away. On top of that, we have increased levels of general staff sickness and self-isolation, which has placed serious pressures on staffing levels.

“To try and relieve some of the pressure and we are actively re-deploying staff from across the sector into the roles that need them most. 

“I cannot praise and thank our staff enough for the ways in which they are continuing to respond to these new challenges, however there is no denying that we are in a serious situation.”

The pressures are also affecting social care services in the community across the four Health and Social Care Partnerships in Lothian.

NHS Lothian is doing everything it can to ensure everyone gets the right care in the right place and is working with the H&SCPs to try and discharge people, without delay, from hospital as soon as they are clinically well enough to begin their next stage of care, which in turn will help to free up hospital beds.

Mr Campbell added: “For some people this might mean a temporary move to a care home, until the right care package, or care home of choice, can be provided.  

“Family and voluntary sector support is also being sought to help patients to go home when they no longer require hospital care.

“I would urge everyone in Lothian to help play their part and help us to keep A&E and our acute hospital beds for those that need it most.”

If you think you need to visit A&E, but it’s not life threatening, or you think you need to visit a Minor Injury Unit, call NHS 24 on 111 first, day or night.

NHS 24 will direct you to the right care in the right place, and NHS Lothian is working with NHS24 to provide appointments for minor injury assessments to reduce the length of time spent waiting in busy hospital waiting rooms.

It is important too to remember that there is self-care information on NHS Inform, and local pharmacies, GPs or dental practices or opticians might be the most appropriate route to treatment and care.

If it is an emergency always call 999 or go to your local A&E.