A HOSPITAL ward at the centre of an outbreak of Clostridium difficile has now been closed to visitors until after Christmas.

NHS Highland said it was suspending all unannounced visiting to Ward 2A (Stroke Unit) at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to minimise the risk of the potentially deadly bug spreading.

Only a limited number of friends and relatives who have arranged their visits with the ward staff in advance will be allowed in.

This policy will remain in place over Christmas and will be reviewed on Wednesday December 27.

A spokeswoman for NHS Highland said: "This decision has not been taken lightly but is necessary to minimise the risk to other patients on the ward.

"We would like to apologise for any inconvenience this causes but patient safety is our priority."

The decision comes after the ward was closed to new admissions on Tuesday after it emerged that four patients on Ward 2A had tested positive for Clostridium difficile. The first case was confirmed on Saturday.