With hospitals across the region entering Code Black status, many patients have been left wondering, ‘what does this mean for me?’
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI), Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin and Raigmore Hospital in Inverness have all declared Code Black recently, meaning the hospitals are at full capacity as a result of mounting pressures – in this instance, Covid pressures.
All three hospitals have been forced to cancel appointments and procedures to free up capacity for the most urgent care.
Both NHS Grampian and NHS Highland have been hit with an increase in Covid cases, alongside a growing number of self-isolating staff, as well as many on annual leave over the school holidays.
These factors led to the hospitals having to declare Code Black. However, in Grampian, the status only applies to ARI – neither Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital (RACH) or Aberdeen Maternity Hospital have declared Code Black.
With Code Black comes patient uncertainty, with some people wondering if and when their appointments or surgeries will be cancelled.
We answer some of the most frequently asked questions below:
Q: What does it mean when a hospital declares Code Black?
A: Code Black means there is a risk to patient safety and a hospital is at full capacity. To relieve pressure on staff, operations and appointments at a hospital may be postponed – this allows staff to concentrate on the most urgent care.
The status of the hospital is set each morning – ranging from green to black – by the acute management team and can be reviewed several times each day.
It is essentially a temperature gauge of how busy the hospital is and how much pressure it is under – this can be due to multiple reasons including capacity, the ability to discharge to community settings and staffing levels, for instance.
Q: My local hospital has declared Code Black, what should I do if I have an appointment?
A: If you have a scheduled appointment you should still attend it unless contacted by the hospital.
A staff member will contact patients who have had their appointment postponed or rescheduled as a result of Code Black being declared.
Patients do not need to contact the hospital to check if their appointment has been cancelled.
Q: What should I do if I am scheduled to have surgery but my hospital has declared Code Black?
A: Patients’ elective surgeries will still go ahead unless the patient is contacted by the hospital.
A staff member will contact patients who have had their surgery postponed or rescheduled.
Patients do not need to contact the hospital to check if their surgery has been cancelled.
Q: I’ve had an accident and require A&E treatment – can I just turn up at the hospital while it is operating at Code Black?
A: Yes. Emergency departments remain open across Grampian, Highland, Arygll and Bute, but they are for emergencies (life threatening) – whatever the status of the hospital. People should always contact 999 or go to the nearest A&E department in an emergency.
However, if your condition is not serious, you should call NHS 24 on 111 day or night. They will assess your condition and may arrange an appointment at a minor injury unit.
You may also wish to consult your GP or the NHS Inform website for guidance on self-care at home.
Q: My child is sick, but the local hospital has declared Code Black. Does that mean the children’s hospital is automatically Code Black too?
A: No. If a hospital declares Code Black, like Aberdeen Royal Infirmary did last week, it does not automatically mean Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital is Code Black too.
In Grampian, paediatric emergency departments remain open, but they are for emergencies, whatever the status of the hospital.
If your child’s condition is not serious, consider contacting your GP or NHS 24 on 111 out of hours.
A local pharmacist can also advise on appropriate care with over the counter medicines.
In any emergency situation concerning a child you must always dial 999.
Q: I want to visit a relative in hospital, but it has declared a Code Black – can I still go?
A: Hospital pressures will not generally mean a change to visiting procedures. However, particular wards may ask you to come in at certain times, to manage the movement of people.
Both NHS Grampian and NHS Highland ask visitors to speak to the Senior Charge Nurse before visiting to ensure you are going along at a suitable time.
All visitors must wear face coverings and follow hand hygiene guidance.
For more on coronavirus…
- Coronavirus in Scotland – track the spread in these charts and maps
- ‘Are cases only rising because we’re testing more?’ and 5 other Covid questions answered
- Covid leaves north-east man with blood clots, pneumonia and hepatitis
- Health boss warns surgery backlog at Grampian hospitals will take ‘years’ to clear