NHS Lanarkshire is suspending all non-urgent elective procedures from tomorrow and some outpatient appointments as it battles a rise in Covid admissions.

The health board said that "clinically urgent and priority procedures" will continue, including cancer care at all three of its hospital sites, but it will focus acute services on dealing with a rise in Covid-19 patients and emergency care.

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The majority of outpatient appointments will be stood down in order to redeploy nurses to support the delivery on urgent and emergency inpatient care.

The change comes into effect on Wednesday 13 January and will last for an initial period of four weeks.

HeraldScotland: There are signs that cases in NHS Lanarkshire could be dipping, although data is still being completed for the most recent datesThere are signs that cases in NHS Lanarkshire could be dipping, although data is still being completed for the most recent dates

The move comes as the number of patients being treated in Lanarkshire hospitals with Covid-19 is expected to double from the current total of 288, with 16 currently in ICU.

Judith Park, director of acute services for NHS Lanarkshire, said the safety of patients was the health board's "top priority".

She said: “The hospitals are full and the numbers of Covid-19 admissions are increasing. As such, there are only 46 beds currently available to new patients.

“We currently have nearly 300 patients being treated for Covid-19 in our hospitals, with additional patients currently waiting on test results. However, we are anticipating this number to double within a week putting our hospitals under severe pressure."

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“To ensure our services operate as safely as possible, we have taken the decision to cancel non-urgent outpatient appointments and planned procedures from today at all our acute sites.

“The decision to cancel any appointment is not one that we take lightly and I apologise for the impact this will have on patients. Most patients will receive a text message confirming the cancellation of their appointment.

“A small number of appointments will still go ahead as scheduled.

"Appointments will be prioritised based on clinical need and those patients who are deemed clinically urgent will be rebooked.

"Patients will receive a letter, text message or voice message giving details of their new appointment.”

Maternity and neonatal clinics will continue as normal in the meantime. Appointments for urgent referrals, including cancer referrals, will also continue.

It is expected that some community and primary care services, including some GP practice services, will also need to be paused to cope with the number of Covid-19 patients. Details will be shared once any changes are confirmed.

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Mrs Park added: “Our staff are battling to save lives every day and I am immensely proud of them. Every single Lanarkshire resident can help save lives by following government guidance and staying at home.”

Patients with any concerns can contact our dedicated helpline number 0300 303 0446. .

All patients should consider the latest Scottish government advice, including staying at home if they have symptoms that may be caused by Covid-19 or they live with someone that has symptoms.