The Scottish Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman has warned that the NHS could see staff absence rates of 30% over the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.
Freeman said the Scottish government are looking to double the number of intensive care units and the NHS may have to draft in thousands of trainee nurses and doctors to cope.
Freeman told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, “We expect to see shortly cases coming forward that are originating from that community transmission.”
She further said that the NHS are also looking at how they can recruit newly retired doctors and nurses.
Freeman added that there are “something like 3,000 available nursing students” as well as year five medical students.
She said the nursing students could play an “important role” in caring for patients who are sick.
She said: “We have active work going on looking at how we can increase the number of beds available in our hospital settings, doubling the number of intensive care units that we have and equipping them and staffing them.”
Explaining how this would happen, she said, “You start to make difficult decisions about NHS care that is critical to life, that would be cancer treatment, transplants, maternity care from NHS care that is not critical to life.
“That is some of our elective work, the replacements of knees, hips and so on.
“You start to scale down the non-critical in order to free up the space for the critical.
“That is where you get additional bed space, but you also can get additional intensive care space.”
She added, “People need to think about in what way they can offer additional help to their neighbours or their families, while we try to make sure that professional help that is there … to protect those who are most vulnerable and care for those who become sickest.”
However, on Tuesday the deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries told the BBC that the NHS are more prepared than Italy.
Dr Harries said, “Italy clearly has a very good health system but I think I actually heard one of the advisers on the radio today noticing the lessons for other countries to learn.