NHS boards reveal winter pressure plans
Scotland's health boards are putting extra measures in place this weekend to deal with winter illness pressures.
As NHS Lanarkshire opens its GP surgery doors on Saturdays for the rest of the month, other health boards are increasing provision to meet unprecedented demand.
Many are fully staffing out-of-hours services and some have increased the number of medical shifts.
An increase in winter illnesses is putting extra demand on NHS services.
About 40% of GP practices in Lanarkshire will be open on Saturday mornings throughout January to help meet the increased need for appointments.
Covering half of the local population, selected surgeries will open from 08:00 until 12:30 GMT.
Patients are being asked to contact their GP practice to check if they are open if they feel they need to see a doctor.
This move is one of the measures being put in place by NHS Lanarkshire in response to what it says are "unprecedented levels" of winter illness.
The number of flu cases in Scotland during the last week of December was double that during the same period a year ago.
Earlier this week, the board was one of several across Scotland forced to temporarily postpone elective or non-urgent procedures due to the increased pressure on services.
Office workers have also been volunteering to help out colleagues in hospitals and GP practices by taking on administrative and cleaning roles.
NHS Lanarkshire's three hospital sites at Hairmyres, Wishaw and Monklands were "inundated" over the festive period and "exceptional measures" were necessary to ensure patient safety, the board said.
Dr Iain Wallace, medical director for NHS Lanarkshire, said: "We've asked all practices to consider extending their opening hours to cover Saturday mornings in January and we've had a great response, with an extended GP service being offered to almost half of the Lanarkshire population across Lanarkshire and more practices coming on-board.
"This increased capacity will help meet the high level of requests for a GP appointment.
"We want to ensure that our GPs can see the patients where only a GP can help."
How is the rest of Scotland coping?
Ayrshire & Arran
NHS Ayrshire & Arran has seen an increase in the demand for both hospital and community services over the festive period.
The health board says staff are meeting the needs of local people in the community through general practice, community pharmacies and, when necessary, urgent care services through NHS24.
Borders experienced high demand over the festive period particularly within its Accident and Emergency Department which still remains busy.
GP surgeries have been seeing both emergency patients and those attending for routine appointments.
Extra appointments are being given where essential.
Dumfries & Galloway
Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary was reduced from "Red Status" to "Amber Status" on Thursday, meaning the hospital now has limited capacity to accept patients.
It followed an extremely high level of emergency department referrals and GP referrals. The service continues to ensure it has the capacity in place to cope with demand, and the increased numbers of respiratory issues and cases of flu.
Extra primary care provision in in place with increased staffing at out of hours surgeries and additional hospital medical shifts.
Additional contingency beds have been opened to create extra capacity. There are no plans to open GP surgeries at weekends.
No plans to offer additional surgery appointments at weekends. Not yet in a position where they would have to consider that as an option.
Greater Glasgow & Clyde
GGC health board have eight fully staffed GP hubs this weekend.
Extra capacity has been created with in-patient beds at Gartnavel Hospital and staff holidays have been restricted.
No plans in place to offer additional surgery appointments at weekends.
Highland has no plans to open at the weekend but would consider this in the future if the need arose. Surgeries are coping with additional demand.
Dr Sian Tucker, clinical director of NHS Lothian's Unscheduled Care Service, said: "Like many health boards we are experiencing a high demand for our services this winter - that is why this weekend we are increasing the number of out-of-hours GPs available at our five base sites and also the capacity of our out-of-hours home-visiting GPs."
Shetland is keeping the situation under close review but says at this time it is not seeing the levels of flu cases being experienced in some parts of the country.
NHS Tayside's says its winter plans are working well and the service is coping with the increase in patients accessing health services.
A spokesman said: "Our planned reduction in non-urgent, elective operations during Christmas and New Year has also freed up capacity for unplanned medical admissions into hospital and we have opened additional beds in some areas.
"Additional shifts have been planned in community hospitals and the out-of-hours service."
Western Isles Hospital is currently experiencing a very high demand, with a high number of admissions through the Emergency Department.
All contingency beds have had to be opened.
Health Minister Shona Robison said: "I want to thank every member of our NHS for their service this winter.
"This has been an exceptionally busy winter period but thanks to the continued dedication of our tireless NHS staff, patient care has not suffered and first class service delivery has remained the priority.
"Health staff across Scotland are doing a fantastic job in difficult circumstances and we're working with health boards to help them cope with pressures. We can all play a part in ensuring demand on our most acute services is minimised however by taking time to think of the best way to access treatment."
The advice from medical staff for those who may be suffering from winter illnesses this weekend is to use emergency services appropriately.
Minor injury units and pharmacists may have the expertise required and, where possible, only use Emergency Departments for serious injuries and major emergencies.