Covid-19 update: why NHS Borders is hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst

The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.
The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.
The Scottish Government has instructed health boards to prepare for three ‘reasonable worst case scenarios’ – including a ‘winter peak’ three times the size of the first coronavirus wave.

A report from NHS Borders, in Melrose, has revealed the Scottish Government has instructed health boards to prepare for three possible eventualities, including a winter peak three times the size of the first wave of Covid-19.

The first scenario predicts an early resurgence in late August, peaking in September. 

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For NHS Borders, this second peak would necessitate a maximum of 20 beds in Borders General being taken up by coronavirus patients between August 20 and September 20, with a further three ICU beds being occupied during that period. 

The second scenario predicts a winter peak, starting from the current low prevalence of coronavirus in Scotland. The model for this scenario predicts a peak similar in size to the first virus peak.

The third scenario is a combination of the first two – a second peak in September, followed by a much larger winter peak which would be three times the size of the first coronavirus spike. 

Due to the lack of dates supplied by the Scottish Government, NHS Borders has not provided an estimation of bed usage for the last two scenarios. 

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When asked what the dates for the forecasted winter peaks are, and why the peak in the third scenario is forecast to be three times the size of the first peak, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have said before that a potential second wave of the virus in the autumn and winter is part of our planning assumptions.

“While circulation of COVID-19 is currently low in Scotland, we know the highly infectious nature of this virus means it has the potential to re-emerge fast as we gradually move out of lockdown. 

“We are working closely with health boards and our colleagues in the health and social care partnerships to ensure the NHS is well prepared for the additional pressures that the season brings.”

A spokesperson for NHS Borders said: “On July 23 2020 the Scottish Government shared three potential future scenario models demonstrating the impact Covid-19 could have on hospitals during autumn and winter 2020/2021. 

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“It is important to emphasise that these are potential scenarios, rather than explicit predictions and as a result they do not have specific dates attached to them. 

“The actual numbers will also ultimately be impacted by local public behaviour in minimising Covid-19 transmission.

“However, the projections have been extremely helpful in informing our ongoing plans to manage Covid-19 and the remobilisation of our normal services as they have allowed us to predict potential service demand locally against our existing capacity. 

“This has then allowed us to plan adequate contingency measures such as identifying how we would create surge beds, including ITU, should we require them. 

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“Our plans also take into account the normal increased activity in health and social care services over the winter months.

“We will continue to adjust our plans as further information on the transmission and nature of Covid-19 becomes available.”

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