What does Code Black mean for hospitals? Covid cases rise as hospitals declare Code Black

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Two more hospitals in Scotland declared a Code Black this week amid a surge in Covid cases. Raigmore Hospital was the first to declare, followed by Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in the Granite City, and Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin. A recent rise in COVID-19 cases, thought to be as a result of the Delta variant first identified in India, alongside vast numbers of staff in self isolation and school holidays, has meant non-urgent medical procedures have been postponed.

What does Code Black mean for hospitals?

Code Black is quite a rare situation to arise within medical settings and hospitals.

The code means the hospital is at complete capacity, with no beds available for any new Accident & Emergency (A&E) admissions.

Code Black essentially means that patient safety is at risk.

The general bed manager of the hospital is in charge of the declaration, and informs the NHS board and local ambulance services so they know not to take patients to that hospital.

Amid rising infection rates around Scotland, hospital Covid admissions have been increasing, putting extra strain on hospitals which are staggering back to more normal service.

With Covid more prevalent within society, staff members are inevitably having to isolate.

This, in turn, means there is fewer people available to cover shifts and sort out the backlog in procedures the NHS is facing.

In addition, with many starting to see patients from last year, they’re just as busy as they were peak pandemic, meaning they can’t cope with the sudden increase in demand.

Profesor Nick Fluck, medical director at NHS Grampian, 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 (Code Black) 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.”

Professor Caroline Hiscox, Chief Executive of NHS Grampian, added: “While we have not moved into full Civil Contingency mode, as we did at the start of the pandemic, we have ‘stood up’ certain measures to allow us to closely monitor activity throughout the region.”

British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland claim urgent action is needed to combat the “very high level of pressure” facing the NHS as a result of the recent virus spike.

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Dr Lewis Morrison, BMA Scotland Chair, told BBC’s Lunchtime Live radio programme that decisions needed to be made quickly regarding staff absences due to required self isolation.

He said meetings were going ahead with the Scottish Government in Holyrood “with some urgency” on the matter.

Dr Morrison said: “Within the next few days I think some sort of decision needs to be made to assure the continuity of healthcare services in areas under these kind of pressures – it’s as urgent as that I think.”

This comes as the planned dates for easing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are “not set in stone”, according to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The First Minister said it would not be responsible to have a guaranteed timetable in the face of climbing cases, especially amid another week of high numbers.

Scotland is due to move to level zero, equivalent to England’s step four, on July 19 before dropping all restrictions on August 9.

However, Ms Sturgeon said she would look very carefully at the data before confirming this would happen, while the Scottish Parliament is to be recalled from recess on July 13 as MSPs are updated on whether the timetable will go ahead as planned.

Another 3,799 cases of Covid were recorded in Scotland on Wednesday, breaking a trend of five consecutive days where numbers fell from the record highs seen the previous week.

Ms Sturgeon said case numbers were “much higher than we want them to be” but said it could still be the case that the recent increase is stabilising.

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