Aberdeenshire Council and NHS Grampian face serious staff shortages due to Covid

Health and council services across Aberdeenshire have been severely impacted by high levels of staff absences due to the rise in the number of people with Covid-19.

By Kevin McRoberts
Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 7:27 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 7:27 am
The spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has left many council and health staff either ill or isolating.
The spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has left many council and health staff either ill or isolating.

NHS Grampian has called on the support of the military, with 38 service men and women assisting health services in the area over the next four weeks.

But the health board has warned that with the Omicron variant of the virus continuing to drive growth in case numbers across the region, it could be on the verge of declaring a ‘major incident’.

Aberdeenshire Council services have been hit too, with some household waste collections missed and other day-to-day services reduced or closed to enable staff to concentrate on looking after the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Aberdeenshire Council services, such as waste collections, have been struggling to maintain normal service due to staff shortages.

NHS Grampian has briefed staff about the potential of a major incident being declared when key trigger points are reached - which could be at some point this week.

A statement from the board says a Major Incident Plan would cover a period of around 30 days, and adds: "It will include how staff may be affected with regards to deployment, non-critical clinical and non-clinical activity and changes in service capacity.”

Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire Council says high levels of staff absence due to illness and self-isolation have made it extremely challenging to maintain essential and critical services.

Some difficult decisions are having to be made to ensure the most vital council services can continue to operate.

The health service is under severe pressures due to staff absences and rising numbers of patients in hospitals.

Jim Savege, Aberdeenshire Council’s chief executive, said some waste collections had been impacted, and some offices and activities were not open or operating in their normal way.

“We are having to prioritise our services at this time,” explained Mr Savage.

“We are working really hard to keep all our schools open and, so far, we’ve been able to do that with most of them.

“We are working really hard to make sure that our waste services continue, and we are doing the best we can in terms of the household collection schedules.

“But we also have to prioritise more of our staff towards health and care services, looking after the most vulnerable people in our communities, who need extra help from us at this time.”

Mr Savege said that, over the next few weeks, people in Aberdeenshire may experience other services suffering as a result, with some possibly operating reduced hours or closing completely.

He apologised for the impact this might have on people’s lives on a day-to-day basis, but stressed it was the right thing for the council to do to cope with the current situation.

“We have to make sure we are using the staff available to provide the most important services to our communities and to support those who are most vulnerable,” he said.

“They need our help just now.”

You can keep up to date with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on council services at www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/covid-19.