A SHARP rise in Covid cases and seriously unwell patients with a range of health conditions are having a significant impact on hospital capacity.

NHS Forth Valley continues to urge people with minor and non-urgent conditions to avoid attending the emergency department in Larbert as a result, with figures showing an increase in cases during March.

Across the area covered by the health board, as many as 992 people tested positive for Covid-19 on March 14 – the highest figure on record since the winter peak in January.

On the same day, 188 cases were recorded in Clackmannanshire and it was estimated that on the week ending March 20, one in 11 people in Scotland returned a positive result for coronavirus.

Daily case numbers have since started to slowly reduce, however, at the start of this week there were still 160 patients in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, albeit many are not being treated for coronavirus related illnesses.

Health officials explained that thanks to the vaccination programme, fewer people are requiring serious medical interventions and indeed, the number of patients with Covid-19 in intensive care has remained below five since the end of January this year.

A spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley told the Advertiser: “We have seen a recent sharp rise in the number of patients in our local hospitals who have tested positive for Covid-19.

“However, many of these patients are not being treated for Covid-19 related illnesses and, due to the success of vaccination programme, fewer people are becoming seriously unwell due to Covid-19 and requiring to be admitted to ICU.

“Over the last few weeks, we have also seen high numbers of seriously ill patients who require to be admitted to hospital for a wide range of health conditions.

“Collectively, these pressures are having a significant impact on our inpatient capacity and ability to move patients across and between our hospitals.”

The spokesperson added: “We are therefore asking anyone with a minor injury or non-urgent health condition to avoid attending our Emergency Department and to call NHS24 on 111 first to ensure they can access the advice and treatment they need as quickly as possible. Local pharmacies can also provide advice and treatment for many common illnesses and injuries.”

Since the peak in positive test results mid-March, which remained just below the previous rise around January, the number of cases has started to slowly reduce and there were only 56 positive tests reported in the Wee County at the start of this week.