Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said that NHS Scotland would be moving to an emergency footing for at least the next three months, in order to be ready to face a substantial and sustained increase in coronavirus cases.
She said the decision to postpone all non-urgent elective care had been made to free up capacity in hospitals, while work to double Scotland’s intensive care capacity continues as NHS Boards retrain staff and repurpose existing facilities.
Non-urgent elective activity includes procedures that are non-life threatening and can be postponed without a negative clinical impact, such as elective gallbladder and hernia surgery, non-trauma orthopaedic surgery such as hip and knee operations, and elective gynaecological operations.
Ms Freeman said: “We have been clear from the outset about the challenges our health service will face in the weeks and months to come from coronavirus.
“While our NHS is prepared and has a proven track record of dealing with these types of outbreak, we want to free up capacity in our hospital settings, and ensure access to beds for those who need them.
“That’s why we have asked boards to start scaling down non-urgent elective operations from now until further notice.
“Vital cancer treatments, emergency, maternity, and urgent care will continue, and patients have our assurance that all appointments will be rescheduled as quickly as possible as we get through the challenge to our NHS that COVID-19 presents.
“While these are undoubtedly difficult times, we fully expect our NHS to ensure patients are treated in line with their clinical priority, and the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients has been a priority in all of our planning.”