There are still no new Covid-19 cases anywhere in the Western Isles, NHS Western Isles confirmed on Twitter last night (Thursday December 3)

This was despite reports of two more cases through mainland data.

NHSWI Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson explained that the national figures do show one new case, but this relates to the individual who is no longer staying in the Western Isles but is still registered with an Islands GP.

A separate positive case was found to be negative after being retested through the NHS Western Isles laboratory.  The mainland laboratory system is designed to provide rapid results for a large number of screening tests.  Where a result is a ‘weak positive’ in someone without risk factors for exposure to Covid-19, a confirmatory test is recommended. 

The confirmatory test that is used by NHS Western Isles in the local laboratory is called a Cepheid test which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ in testing for Covid-19 and is used as the system to ‘retest’ as necessary.  Where this test is negative, the mainland laboratory test is regarded as a ‘false positive’.

And following the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, Mr Jamieson says they “are working hard on planning for our part in Scotland’s biggest ever vaccination programme.”  But it could be many months before the programme even starts to be effective. 

Meanwhile the NHS says the way people access A&E services has changed to keep patients and NHS Scotland safe this winter. Local A&E departments remain open for those who have a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate attention.  

However, to ensure patients have the fastest access to the treatment they need, anyone with a non-life-threatening condition who would usually go to their local A&E should now call NHS 24 on 111 first, day or night, to be directed to the right NHS service.  

NHS 24 on 111 is also there for those who need urgent medical attention but can’t wait for their GP practice or dentist to re-open.   

Those with life-threatening conditions including suspected heart attacks or strokes, severe breathing difficulties, severe bleeding, or severe injury should continue to go straight to A&E or call 999.  

This new way of delivering urgent care - which is being supported by a £20million funding package - has been designed to help people get the right care in the right place this winter, at time when there is increased pressure on NHS services. 

In the Western Isles, as part of the campaign to ensure we all access the right care at the right place, the NHS will also be increasing the use of Near Me technology for the assessment of minor injuries, as part of a pilot project, called ‘Meet MIA’ (Minor Injury Assessment).   

Near Me is secure form of video consulting approved for use by the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland. Near Me enables people to attend appointments from home or wherever is convenient. NHS Western Isles has used Near Me to facilitate healthcare appointments with a number of our services for many years, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Near Me has been increasingly used by the majority of our services and GP practices, with very positive feedback from service users.    

All you need for a Near Me appointment is a device for making video calls like a smartphone and an internet connection.   

NHS Western Isles is now introducing Near Me for minor injury assessment (MIA), to help reduce patient travel, prevent unnecessary trips to (and waits in) A&E and to reduce face to face appointments to prevent the risk of COVID-19 transmission.   

You may therefore now be offered a virtual Near Me appointment if referred by NHS24 or your GP to A&E for a minor injury. 

NHS Western Isles Medical Director, Dr Frank McAuley, said: “In Scotland, we have had to change the way we access urgent case, as a result of COVID-19. This is why the NHS24 service has expanded and it is now available day and night for urgent care. You can of course also continue to contact your GP practice for advice during the day. Our priority is to help keep you and our local NHS safe. You can help us to help you by changing the way you access urgent care. This will ensure that A&E is kept for emergencies only.” 

From this month, the public are asked to: 

  • use the NHS inform website to access advice on common symptoms, guidance for self-help and where to go if further medical care is needed 
  • contact their local GP practice during the day for an appointment or over-the-phone advice 
  • call 111 day or night when they think they need A&E but it is not life-threatening 
  • call 111 and select the Mental Health Hub to access mental health advice and guidance or call the Breathing Space telephone helpline on 0800 83 85 87 
  • call 111 or use NHS inform out of hours when they are too ill to wait for their GP practice to open, or for worsening symptoms of COVID-19.