Scotland’s health service is set to declare “major incident” status as the army is called in to deal with a flood of Omicron cases.
As troops were deployed to help hospitals in Grampian, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, opposition MSPs said the NHS was now at “crisis point”.
Last night with hospitals under pressure from Covid and staff self-isolating, one health board warned it was ready to declare “major incident” status.
That is normally reserved for large-scale incidents such as major disasters – and would be the first time it has been declared outwith these events.
As NHS Grampian announced the move, Labour shadow health secretary Jackie Baillie said: “This is an incredibly worrying development. NHS Grampian is the latest in a line of health boards to indicate that they are soon to declare a major incident, and the Scottish Government must stand by ready to intervene.
“It is already the case that military personnel have been drafted in to support NHS staff in Grampian, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and NHS Lanarkshire today. It is clear that the NHS is now at crisis point.”
In a briefing to staff NHS Grampian said due to “an exponential growth” of cases in the last fortnight, it could declare a “major incident” next week.
It said: “Based on our modelling data, we anticipate a continued and significant growth in the levels of the disease placing even more significant pressure on care homes, primary care teams, community teams and hospitals.
“Our planned response will include a declaration of a major incident when a number of key trigger points are reached. Looking at our local data, these triggers could be met as early as the end of next week.”
The board said a Major Incident Plan covering about 30 days would be available from next week.
The statement added: “It will include how staff may be affected with regards to deployment, non-critical clinical and non-clinical activity and changes in service capacity.”
Military personnel have already arrived to support NHS staff in NHS Grampian, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and NHS Lanarkshire.
Grampian will have 38 service personnel for four weeks, while 32 will work in Lanarkshire for the same period, with 20 in Ayrshire in Arran for the next six weeks.
They are expected to be deployed as healthcare support workers and nurses in the emergency and intensive care departments.
The personnel have joined 221 members of the Armed Forces who have been supporting the vaccine programme across Scotland, with 96 driving ambulances in support of the Scottish Ambulance service.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I’m grateful to military personnel for their efforts at this time, along with all frontline staff in our NHS for the vital role they play in help keeping us safe.”
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The Scottish Government said it was looking at a “range of options” to assist the NHS including ‘hospital at home’ – where patients who would normally require a level of acute care in hospital can receive treatment at home.