NHS Fife has taken a range of measures to reduce "unprecedented" pressures on healthcare services in the Kingdom and to protect urgent care and cancer services.
The health board says that in recent months, services in the region have come under increasing strain due to a "sustained and significant" rise in the number of patients needing care for coronavirus and non-coronavirus related conditions.
Presentations to the Emergency Department at Kirkcaldy's Victoria Hospital during the summer have far exceeded what would be expected during the winter period.
The service has recorded five of its six highest daily attendances since records began.
There are concerns that there will be a further rise in the number of hospitalisations in the coming weeks due to the prevalence of Covid-19 and community transmission staying high.
With the prevalence of Covid and community transmission remaining high it is likely to lead to a further increase in the number of hospitalisations over the coming weeks.
NHS Fife is taking the following steps:
- Postpone all non-urgent surgical procedures: emergency procedures, trauma and cancer procedures will continue including individuals that require surgery within 12 weeks
- Postpone some non-urgent outpatient appointments: patients affected will be contacted directly to advise of the postponement, but those who are not contacted are being advised to attend their appointment as arranged.
- Increased hospital footprint for coronavirus patient care: clinical areas will be redefined and used to support the care of patients with coronavirus and optimise the health board's clinical space
- Visiting restrictions to continue: limited to one named individual
- Staff redeployment programme: to areas of clinical priority
- Patient complaints: will continue to be acknowledged and registered, however compliant investigation and formal responses will be suspended at this time
There are also major efforts to increase staffing levels, with more than 150 qualified graduates being recruited and taking up clinical roles across the Kingdom in the coming weeks.
Top-up/fast track training is also being introduced to allow registered nurses no longer working in clinical settings to be redeployed to support wards.
Margo McGurk, Director of Finance and Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Fife, said: "The pressure on healthcare services in Fife at present is unlike anything we have experienced during our response to the pandemic.
"Current projections are suggesting that this unprecedent demand will continue and increase still further, it was therefore vital that we had to act now and take the difficult decision to postpone routine procedures to protect our urgent care and cancer services.
"This decision was not taken lightly; our staff have worked tirelessly to try and avoid having to take this action.
"Patient safety is our single biggest priority, and the current rates of community transmission of coronavirus are adding to the already significant strain on all healthcare services.
"By postponing some clinical services will enable staff working in these areas to support their colleagues in emergency care, trauma, and cancer services to ensure those who are most unwell receive the vital care they need.
"We know that this decision will have a direct impact on our patients, some of whom will have already waited a considerable period of time for treatment, and we sincerely apologise for the additional anxiety this will cause.
"Our hope is that this postponement will be brief, and we can resume any services stepped down as soon as it is safe to do so.
"Across the whole healthcare system in Fife, whether in our communities or in our hospitals, healthcare staff are working exceptionally hard to maintain high standards of patient care, despite the significant pressures we are seeing at present.
"At times, and particularly of late, the demand on healthcare services has been relentless.
"Many of our staff are exhausted, having worked through the most challenging of circumstance for the last 18 months and we are doing all we can to provide them with the necessary support to ensure their own health and wellbeing.
"Our ask of the people of Fife is to continue to do their bit to support healthcare staff and services.
"We need to ask the public to use our emergency services, especially our accident and emergency department appropriately.
"The public should also continue to play their part in helping to reduce coronavirus rates in our communities, and in turn reduce the number of people requiring treatment for the virus in our hospitals.
"That means getting fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
"We have a range of drop-in clinics available across the Kingdom.
"It is also equally important that anyone with even very mild symptoms of coronavirus isolates immediately and books a test at one of the many sites in Fife.
"Taking these steps will not only reduce community transmission and result in fewer people becoming unwell, but it will also reduce the number of those requiring care in our hospitals and help alleviate the significant strain on healthcare services across Fife."