It has been warned that a spike in slips and falls due to freezing weather threatens to overwhelm some hospital emergency departments and place an increasing number of individuals at “significant” risk of contracting Covid-19.
Health boards in Scotland are advising individuals to take extra caution while out and about and, if possible, to remain at home to relieve pressure on the NHS.
Before attending A&E with non-life threatening injuries, the public are also advised to dial 111.
Today, the Met Office has issued an ice alert for large parts of Scotland and the low temperatures are expected to continue over the coming weeks.
Leading surgeons have also warned that as a result of ice and snow, hospitals “do not have the capacity” to cope with a large number of injuries.
As they struggle with the current coronavirus epidemic, medics have called for more roads and sidewalks to be gritted to avoid slips and falls.
“The Scottish Ambulance Service said it was experiencing “extremely strong demand” yesterday.
When outside, it advised people to be vigilant and just dial 999 in an emergency.
Several health departments, meanwhile, have issued online caution appeals.
We see a growing number of people visiting our emergency rooms after slipping, tripping or falling on icy sidewalks, NHS Grampian posted on Twitter. We want to remind everyone to stay healthy and prevent these accidents.
Giving attention to current conditions and staying home if possible is the best way to do this. Today and tomorrow, weather warnings remain in effect across Grampian, so ice remains a real possibility.
NHS Lanarkshire advised individuals to “be careful out there,” adding, “If you slip and fall, please remember to call 111 before going to A&E with non-life threatening minor injuries.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde advised people to stay at home before conditions improve, while Dr. Neil Dignon, a Glasgow Royal Infirmary emergency department consultant, tweeted yesterday that 75 percent of patients in the emergency department of the hospital “slipped on ice”
In the meantime, Dr. John Thomson, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Scotland, cautioned that as a result of ice and snow, hospitals “do not have the capacity” to cope with a large number of falls or injuries.
Speaking to The Times, he said, “If we see a big freeze and a number of weather-related fractures, we don’t have the ability to safely handle those patients.”
“The risk of catching covid just by waiting in the hospital is significant. If they are elderly and need surgery, their mortality is significantly increased.”
Professor Michael Griffin, president of Edinburgh’s Royal College of Surgeons, said the icy conditions could be “treacherous” and urged individuals to come to the aid of the most vulnerable by running errands to minimize the risk.
He said, “We need to think about the people who are alone and prevent the risk of them going out and breaking a hip or catching covid,”
“At least call them and see what you can do. It’s up to the municipalities to make sure the roads and sidewalks are gritted.”
Meteorologists from the Met Office say they have detected a rapid warming of the stratosphere connected to very cold weather.
The unexpected stratospheric warming in 2018 brought the “Beast from the East” heavy snow; however, meteorologists said the phenomenon is more likely to bring cold weather without heavy snow, although it is hard to predict it.
Nicola Maxey, the Met Office spokeswoman, said that warming takes at least 10 days to hit our atmosphere.
“At the moment we have a feeling that we could see some colder weather towards the end of January into February, but probably the sort of weather we’re seeing at the moment, as opposed to what’s generally perceived as Beast from the East.” she said.