Dumfries & Galloway Health & Social Care

Extreme pressures facing region’s health and social care system

EXTREME pressures are currently challenging the health and social care systems across Dumfries and Galloway. 

Urgent meetings have been taking place among clinical and care managers, as they work to address both the pressing short-term issues and the prospect of very serious challenges heading into the winter months. 

In a bid to try and manage the current pressures which include increased demand and staffing shortages exacerbated by the pandemic, a decision has been made to scale back elective clinical procedures scheduled to take place at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary over the next two weeks. However, urgent and cancer procedures will go ahead. 

A bid to convey the scale of the challenges facing everything from care at home services to hospitals comes as Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership Chief Officer Julie White delivers a sober message to its incredibly hard working and resilient staff and volunteers. 

In her message, Mrs White said: “It’s been an incredibly difficult 18 months for everyone, where we’ve all felt the impact of COVID-19 in just about every aspect of our lives. Right now, significant pressures are facing our Health and Social Care Partnership as we head into the most challenging winter period ever faced.” 

Addressing the current challenges, Mrs White said: “For a number of years the health and social care partnership has faced the dual challenge of increasing demand against the backdrop of difficulties around recruitment to the workforce. 

“The pandemic has only served to accelerate this problem. Many people have avoided seeking help because of COVID, have been confronted with delays, or have been isolating at home – becoming weaker or more frail.   

“As has long been the case, recruitment to jobs within the area remains a challenge, but encouraging, innovative approaches are being driven forward which do provide hope for an improved situation going forward. 

“However, right now we’re in a position where problems stored up during the pandemic are really biting. 

“Staff across the whole of the health and social care system are incredibly stretched, and we’re desperately short on the care staff who can help support people in the environment that’s right for them – such as the comfort and familiarity of their own home. 

“I was incredibly heartened to see the announcement this week that pay for care at home staff is set to increase. These carers are the largely unsung heroes of our communities, providing support, help and comfort to so many of the most vulnerable people in our region. 

“We desperately need more people to embark into this as a career which should see them better rewarded and celebrated. We are currently in the process of developing a far-reaching recruitment aimed at significantly increasing care at home capacity. 

“However, in the short term, we face real challenges providing care and support to our population in a system that has been radically changed by the consequences of managing the pandemic.” 

  • A request is being made for people to first and foremost understand and appreciate the enormity of the challenge facing the health and social care system. 
  • Beyond that, an ask is being made to understand that difficult decisions have been taken to address the pressures across the system, including for example the decision to scale down elective procedures, decisions in extremis to have two patients within a limited number of rooms within DGRI, to maximise capacity within cottage hospitals as staffing allows, and decisions to place people in alternative NHS and care facilities whilst awaiting support in their own home. 
  • Getting to this stage in the pandemic has relied on the region’s communities supporting services, and being tolerant and patient as we adjust systems to respond to the greatest need. Whilst we recognise that delays to treatment or disruption to care will lead to frustrations, please appreciate that this is also felt very acutely by the staff seeking to provide treatment and care. Civility and support in all circumstances is greatly appreciated. 
  • Finally, an invitation is being extended to help maximise the provision of treatment and care. Anyone with a loved one requiring care who can offer help or suggestions as to how we best meet the needs of their loved one is encouraged to take up a conversation with that person’s Social Work representative. 

Mrs White said: “I have never seen health and social care systems in our region under so much pressure, and unfortunately this level of pressure may continue for some time to come. 

“We really want everyone to have an insight and understanding as to just how challenging things have become through a combination of factors fuelled further by the pandemic. 

“Our responsibility is to the people of Dumfries and Galloway, and whilst the situation remains extremely challenging we are investing significantly in order to address the workforce challenges in particular to ensure that we are in the best position to meet people’s needs. 

“Anyone requiring help should not be deterred from coming forward, but to try and ensure they pursue the most appropriate means of help in the first instance from a range of options – be that a visit to their community pharmacist, visiting the NHS Inform website, contacting their GP practice, calling NHS 24 on 111 or dialling 999 in the case of an emergency.” 

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