Health chiefs have warned staff the second wave of coronavirus cases could peak in the coming weeks.
NHS Grampian bosses have been busy working on a winter plan which could run well into spring due to the pandemic.
Five tactical objectives have been identified for facilities across the north-east for the next few months to help ensure healthcare services are offered while minimising risks for patients and staff.
Bosses are working to make sure that NHS Grampian can provide an integrated whole system winter response.
And they have warned that experts expect a second Covid spike to come in mid-November.
In a video released to health staff, NHS Grampian medical director Nick Fluck praised the efforts of employees around the coronavirus response so far this year.
He said: “It’s been an extraordinary year already, and there’s been a fantastic commitment shown already by everyone. I want to thank you all for your dedication and commitment, as without every part of our organisation working together we would have not made it through.”
The number of positive coronavirus cases in the north-east is lower than in some other health board areas, the number of cases are still considerable, and could put a strain on healthcare services.
Dr Fluck said: “Up until last week, this has not translated into admissions into hospital, but as we expected, this has now changed. There have been some complex national modelling work, which suggests we will now face an autumn wave, peaking in the middle of November.
“This is likely to be similar in impact to the first wave we experienced earlier in the year. We’ve taken this national information and created a local impact model on what this could mean for us in the community, as well as in hospital.
“This is now with our clinical teams and systems leaders to develop the detailed operational plan that will ensure we step up our capacity when we need it while keeping our critical services running.
“This will be very challenging but I am certain we will be successful because I trust in your dedication and hard work. Please look after yourselves and families so we can keep our population safe.”
Dr Fluck said the health board had been busy planning for the winter months taking into account the expected additional pressure on services due to the pandemic.
He added: “I think it’s easier to think of this as a plan for the next six months of our entire healthcare system. It’s clear that the challenges we face will not confine themselves to the few months around Christmas.
“There are five high-level areas of work and these link to our first five tactical objectives.
“Firstly, we need to keep ourselves and our population safe. This involves ensuring that our buildings, our procedures and our protocols reduce the risk of transmitting Covid.
“Secondly, we need to make sure we’re continuing critical services. Some of these are long-standing, such as cancer care or maternity care and some are new, such as the test and protect service and ambitious vaccination programme.
“Thirdly, we need to plan for the surge in Covid, and the normal surge we see in unscheduled care over the wintertime.
“Fourthly we need to appropriately mobilise our services as and when we can which were paused during Covid.
“Fifthly, we need to engage with you, and look after you, as you are our greatest asset.”