NHS Borders has cancelled routine operations amid “extreme pressures” at the region’s main hospital.

The health board’s chief executive, Ralph Roberts, said that beds at Borders General Hospital (BGH) are currently “fully occupied”.

NHS Borders is also battling coronavirus outbreaks at the BGH and Peebles’ Hay Lodge Hospital, which both remain closed.

The chief executive said the health board is experiencing “high rates” of staff absence due to COVID-19.

“Due to extreme pressures the Borders General Hospital is at capacity,” he said. “Our beds are fully occupied and our emergency department is exceptionally busy, with a number of people requiring admission.

“In addition, Ward 9 at the BGH and Hay Lodge Hospital in Peebles remain closed as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks and we continue to experience high rates of COVID-19 related staff absence.

“In order to alleviate these pressures, reluctantly all planned routine operations have been cancelled this week. Affected patients are being contacted directly. Everything possible will be done so that urgent cancer and emergency surgery continues during this time. We are truly sorry to the patients affected by these decisions.

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“This is a very challenging situation and our staff are working round the clock to care for their patients.

“Our surge capacity plans are in place and we can assure you that we are doing everything we can to make beds available and continue with planned operations as soon as we can.

“You can help, before you attend the emergency department please call NHS 24 on 111 first and they will signpost you to the right place to get the advice or care that you need. You may need to wait a while for your call to be answered or for a member of the team to call you back, but this can be done in the comfort of your own home. If you do need to be seen you may be given an appointment time to minimise the time you need to spend in the department. This also reduces pressure on our team.

“If you think that your condition is immediately life threatening you should call 999.

“If your family member is fit to be discharged from hospital, please help us to get them home quickly when they are well enough by being ready and available to collect them or support their discharge to their next place of care. Please understand that we cannot always offer the preferred next place of care in the location that you would choose, and we may ask you to compromise. Working with us to accept this means that we can get the flow through our hospitals moving, and offer care to the maximum amount of people who need it.”