Two hospitals declare 'code black' as Covid cases continue to rise

Two more hospitals in Scotland have declared a code black status due to Covid pressures, forcing the postponement of non-urgent elective operations.

NHS Grampian said both Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin have been at a rare code black status in recent days.

Code black is given to a hospital if it is at complete capacity with no beds available for any new A&E admissions, while patient safety is also thought to be at risk.

Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin, Moray, is one of the hospitals to be working under a 'code black' status. (Wikipedia)
Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin, Moray, is one of the hospitals to be working under a 'code black' status. (Creative Commons/Geograph/Anne Burgess)

The latest update in status of the two hospitals has been blamed on mounting pressure from rising Covid cases in north-east Scotland, both through the number of patients needing hospital treatment and staff absences due to self-isolation requirements for the decision to postpone non-urgent procedures, according to the health board.

It follows an announcement from NHS Highland on Wednesday that Raigmore Hospital in Inverness had reached capacity and declared code black status – halting all non-urgent elective surgery.

Yahoo News UK has contacted Public Health Scotland to check if any other hospitals were running under a code black status.

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is also working under a code black status. (Wikipedia)
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is also working under a code black status. (Creative Commons/Donald Thomas)

NHS Grampian medical director Professor Nick Fluck said: “This is a dynamic situation, subject to change throughout each day. I can confirm that both Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray’s Hospital have been at black status (i.e. at capacity) in recent days.

“Choosing to cancel procedures or appointments is never a decision we take lightly; however it is our only option if we are to relieve some of the pressure and allow staff to concentrate on the most urgent and emergency care.

“I know it is distressing for people to have procedures or appointments postponed, sometimes at very short notice. I apologise to anyone who has been affected by this.

NHS Highland said on Wednesday that Raigmore Hospital in Inverness had reached capacity and declared code black status. (Wikipedia)
NHS Highland said on Wednesday that Raigmore Hospital in Inverness had reached capacity and declared code black status. (Creative Commons/Geograph/Richard Dorrell)

“We will work to reschedule these, but we cannot offer any guarantees at present about when this might happen.”

It comes as recent data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that seven of the top 10 Covid hotspots in Europe were all in the UK – and all of these are in either northern England or Scotland.

Scotland accounted for five of the top 10 spots – including at the very top, where 687 incidences per 100,000 people were recorded over the past week in Tayside.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “While the increase in NHS staff absences over recent weeks is significantly lower than previous phases of the pandemic, this reflects the overall increase in infection rates across the population – and it is a reminder that each of us needs to continue doing all we can to slow the spread of the virus.”

While England’s lockdown restrictions are set to come to an end on 19 July, rules will remain in place in Scotland until at least 9 August – although there will still be “some baseline measures in place” such as face masks being required in some situations.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon said it is a time for “care and caution” if restrictions are eased further after almost 3,800 new coronavirus cases were identified.

She expressed confidence that Scotland will still be able to move to Level 0 from 19 July but stressed many restrictions will still be in place.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attends the final First Minster's Questions (FMQ's) before the summer recess, at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 24, 2021. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JEFF J MITCHELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Scotland will still be able to move to Level 0 restrictions from 19 July. (Getty)

Sturgeon said the number of coronavirus infections in Scotland is “higher than we want them to be right now and higher than we should be comfortable with” but suggested we may be seeing a “stabilisation and a slowing-down of the rate of increase”.

She added: “The health service is under pressure and that is pressure partly from Covid, but Covid cases in hospital are much, much lower than they were earlier waves of the virus…

“There is much more normal hospital activity under way in our hospital so the margins for Covid patients are much smaller than they were before when we cleared our hospitals to deal with Covid.

“That is putting pressure on our health service; the health service is coping, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.”