NHS FIFE staff are "absolutely exhausted" and "broken" due to the pandemic and there's a long winter ahead, a health boss has warned.

A rise in Covid cases in the last few months has resulted in more patients needing treatment while demand for other services has also rocketed.

Wilma Brown, employee director at NHS Fife, said the situation was "not sustainable" and called for action from those above.

She said: "I am working alongside these people and they are absolutely exhausted, just broken.

"We cannot go on like this indefinitely.

"In A&E, absences are going up.

"It's important that we are doing everything we can to release that pressure."

Ms Brown continued: "Last year we stopped everything for Covid but this year we're still trying to run services.

"I know that stopping everything is not the answer.

"I am also not saying that this lies within the power of NHS Fife.

"We are discussing this with the cabinet secretary and with health boards across Scotland.

"Staff are feeling unsafe, we keep pushing and it's not sustainable."

A meeting of the NHS Fife board last Tuesday heard that staffing issues were multi-faceted with absences, vacancies and higher activity in the system all adding to squeezes on the workforce.

The latest figures for sickness absence hit 6.17 per cent in June, up from 5.31 per cent in May and more than one per cent higher than in June 2020 when it was 4.98 per cent.

A greater percentage relate to long-term sickness absence and NHS Fife are focusing on supporting staff back into work.

Staff have also been moved to other services that need support, such as the vaccination programme.

The board's medical director, Dr Chris McKenna, said: "Hospital safety changes moment to moment, shift to shift, and this is nothing like we have dealt with before.

"Pressures are quite profound at times but as much as staff are tired, they are some of the best people I know and they are up for the challenge.

"It's hard, it's not what we expected, it's become very chronic, but we know we are doing our best in spite of that."

The impact on staff has been compounded over the last month and workers have been encouraged to take annual leave to support their own resilience and health and wellbeing.

Chief executive Carol Potter said: "I welcome open and frank conversation.

"There is unrelenting pressure on the workforce and I know its impact on the capacity to cope on the back of the last 18 months.

"I am speaking on a daily basis with staff and there are discussions at length on this.

"There is a commitment from directors and managers that we are listening to staff very quickly and closely.

"We are doing everything we can to address concerns and the challenges we face.

"We are trying to maintain staff levels in areas but it's of utmost priority to ensure our staff feel supported.

"But I know that's difficult and some staff do not feel that way."

A report said that action is being taken to review workforce levels and explore all suggestions and opportunities to address the challenges.

The equivalent of 150 full-time nurses have been recruited from a pool of new graduates and have been appointed in better-paid roles.

The new recruits are expected to start in the next couple of weeks.

NHS Fife's nursing director, Janette Owens, said: "We don't want them to be rabbits in headlights so they are going where their last placement was so they can get up to speed."