Hospitals and ambulances struggle to cope with ice-related injuries as patients forced to wait for urgent operations

Hospitals and the Scottish Ambulance Service already busy with Covid-19 and the New Year bank holiday are struggling to cope with ice-related injuries, with doctors and NHS Health Boards warning people to stay inside rather than risk a fall in the icy conditions.

The Scottish Ambulance Service has warned it is very busy. Picture: John Devlin.
The Scottish Ambulance Service has warned it is very busy. Picture: John Devlin.

A&E departments are busier than usual for this time of year, health boards warned, with the alternative routes advised to non-emergency patients during lockdown – including NHS 24 and Minor Injuries Units – also overwhelmed.

NHS 24 said the service had been “exceptionally busy” on Monday, with more than 7,000 calls by 2pm and patients having to wait longer than usual to speak to someone.

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It comes as people around the country complain of insufficient gritting of pavements and roads, and days after senior surgeons warned councils to grit more roads to keep Covid-19 infections down as hospital admissions pose a risk to older people contracting the virus.

One patient at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary reported having to wait four days for an urgent operation after breaking her leg over the bank holiday weekend.

NHS Lothian was unable to comment.

Dr Neil Dignon, a consultant at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary A&E department said three quarters of the department’s patients on Monday morning were there following a fall.

"Stay indoors if you can til this ice shifts. It’s lethal,” he warned.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it had been forced to bring extra staff into certain areas to cope with demand on Monday.

The health board warned that some parts of the local area were “treacherous”, and asked people not to go out if possible.

"Our Minor Injury Units and EDs have been much busier this [Monday] morning as a result of the freezing weather conditions and black ice. We have been treating a large number of injuries from slips, trips and falls,” a spokesperson said.

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“In certain areas, we have had to bring in extra staff to cope with the demand and we urge people to be especially careful.”

The spokesperson added that while busy, hospitals were “coping” with the increase in black ice admissions, and that priority would be given to the most serious injuries.

NHS Grampian warned people to stay at home where possible.

"We are seeing an increasing number of people attending our Emergency Departments following slips, trips, and falls on icy pavements,” the health board said on Monday.

"We want to encourage everyone to stay safe and avoid these injuries. The simplest way to do this is to be mindful of the current conditions and stay at home where possible.”

The Scottish Ambulance Service said it was experiencing “very high levels of demand” on Monday, adding: "We’d ask people to be careful if outside and please only call 999 in an emergency.”

Senior surgeons warned last week that more roads should be gritted to reduce ice-related falls.

But people from around the country took to social media on Monday to share experiences of roads not gritted.

Labour Peer George Foulkes, 78, said roads in Corstorphine were like a “skating rink”, leaving him unable to go outside.

John Fernandez, a delivery driver, said he had to stop and help two people who had fallen on the ice on Princes Street on Sunday evening.

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