The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, along with other members of the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties, have joined together to highlight the importance of controlling the spread of COVID-19 amid concerns the NHS may not be able to cope with a surge in cases. 

Calling for increased cross-Government working and efforts from the public to reduce the spread of the virus, the group of medical experts has expressed concern that increased community transmission over the festive period, combined with the spread of the new highly infectious variant of COVID-19 and the normal winter surge in respiratory illness and hospital admissions, may combine to form a ‘perfect storm’ which threatens to overwhelm the health service.

With all of mainland Scotland moving to Level 4 restrictions on Boxing Day, the Scottish Academy, including also including representatives from the Royal College of Anaesthetists, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, have released the following statement:

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish public has continued to play a key role in fighting this virus by following the rules and minimising contact with others, especially indoors.

“We know there is hope on the horizon with the roll-out of a national immunisation programme, with further vaccines likely to be approved shortly. However, it will take months for this to make a significant difference, and the short-term situation facing our NHS and public health services remains bleak.

“The NHS and social care across Scotland are now on an emergency footing, with services already severely stretched. Scotland has been able to reduce infection rates, but the new strain is highly infectious and will undoubtedly increase the rate of COVID-19 infection and hospital admissions in the days and weeks ahead. We are gravely concerned that this could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed.

“NHS staff are exhausted but are continuing to work hard to keep the public safe. However, in the face of the new strain, we are calling on the public, once again, to recognise the severity of the situation and take the necessary steps to support our health and social care services.

“Our plea to the public is simple, please do not let your guard down now. You must continue to play your part to protect the NHS and save lives. Our general practices are exceptionally busy and our hospitals are already near capacity. We risk facing a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges if we don’t take collective action now to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

“We are calling for social distancing to be two metres at all times and for masks to be worn in any situation where you are meeting people who are not in your household or bubble – indoors or outdoors. All other potential measures to decrease community transmission should be considered by the government.

“This is urgently required so our NHS can focus on three key tasks - rolling out the vaccine programme, continuing with the rapid testing programmes, and providing emergency care for COVID as well as other medical problems.

“Please use the available resources on NHS inform for health information, speak to your community pharmacist for advice on simple health conditions, cancel any appointments you are unable to attend, and call 111 first if you think you may need to be seen in A&E.

“Only by continuing to look out for each other and following the rules can we give our NHS doctors, nurses and support staff the best chance to do their jobs in the difficult weeks ahead.”

Notes: 

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland - known as the "Scottish Academy" - contributes to improvements in the health of the people of Scotland by the promotion and co-ordination of the work of the Medical Royal College and Faculties and giving the medical professions a collective voice on clinical and professional issues.

The main objectives of the Scottish Academy include:

  • To ensure quality of care and patient safety is maximised by maintaining and improving standards within the profession
  • To provide a co-ordinated voice from the specialties in relation to education, training, clinical standards and effectiveness and research and quality which are supported and promoted by all constituent members
  • To co-ordinate and exchange expertise across the Colleges and Faculties in all areas of training, medical education and revalidation
  • To support improved medical workforce planning in Scotland to recruit and retain the highest quality doctors.

Lisa Rooke

Contact: Lisa Rooke l.rooke@rcpe.ac.uk 0131 247 3688