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Assessment centre opens as NHS faces ‘unprecedented demand’

NHS Orkney hopes that a new coronavirus assessment centre will help meet the rising pressures placed on the health service, as the virus continues to spread across the UK.

The health authority has said today, Monday, that the current situation with COVID-19 is causing unprecedented demand across the entire NHS.

It is therefore putting measures in place to ensure demand does not overwhelm healthcare staff’s ability to deal with patients suffering from other conditions. This includes the establishment of a community assessment centre at the site of the old health centre in Kirkwall.

NHS Orkney’s medical director Mr Marthinus Roos has advised that from today, the new centre will be available 24 hours a day. He believes that basing the new facility at the Health Centre on the Old Balfour Hospital site will enable staff to undertake assessments without the risk of cross contamination at the main hospital. 

Gerry O Brien, chief executive of NHS Orkney said: “Whilst we currently have no confirmed cases in Orkney we are aware the number of cases in Scotland continues to increase., we have to assess people who may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus) assessing whether they need hospitalisation or if they can manage at home”.

NHS Orkney’s Head of Primary Care Maureen Firth added: “We have to ensure we have a co-ordinated approach to assessing people to safeguard both our staff and other members of the public.

“The Assessment Centre is an appointment only facility it is not a drop-in centre. If people believe they have COVID-19 symptoms they should contact NHS 24 (111) who will undertake a clinical assessment over the telephone.  If required NHS 24 will arrange a time for patients to attend the Assessment centre”.

“Patients should wait at the front door of the Health Centre where someone will escort them into the building at their appointment time. It’s vitally important when asked to visit the community assessment centre that people arrive for their prearranged appointments at their allocated time, attend alone where possible and return home as soon as they have been seen.”

Orkney’s community pharmacy minor ailment service is also being extended to allow anyone registered with a GP practice, who has a minor illness or a common condition, to speak to a member of the pharmacy team for advice and treatment without the need to see their GP. The health authority explained that this extended service will support the COVID-19 community hubs and assessment centres by enabling the supply of supportive treatments.

Mr Roos said: “We want to make this clear advice hasn’t changed. We understand people are feeling concerned therefore we have to ensure we put in place measures to reduce the risks of transmission”.

“The first thing anybody should do when they start feeling unwell is to self-isolate and seek advice by visiting the NHS Inform website or calling NHS24 on 111. We would like to stress that patients should not call or attend their GP practice or visit the Emergency Department at The Balfour Hospital”.

“We would like to thank all our staff who are working so hard to ensure services continue enabling us to safeguard and protect the residents. We would also like to thank the public for their understanding and co-operation at this time”.

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