Elective surgeries and some outpatient appointments have been temporarily halted in a Scottish NHS board due to high Covid-19 rates.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran said positive Covid-19 cases are at the highest level they have been, causing more admissions to hospital and staff absences, amid hospitals grappling with rising emergency attendances.
Pre-planned operations are paused until the end of the month, it added.
Its interim chief executive professor Hazel Borland said: “Increased Covid-19 admissions, staff absence and rising emergency attendances, has resulted in significant pressures across the whole health and care system.
“This pressure is being felt right across acute services, and primary and community care, with unprecedented demand for services compounded by staff absences.
The rise in COVID-19 cases in our communities has put increased pressures on our health and care system. As a result we have taken the very difficult decision again to temporarily suspend/change some of our services.
— NHS Ayrshire & Arran (@NHSaaa) September 8, 2021
“We have temporarily paused elective surgery until the end of September. This is so that we can maintain cancer surgery and cancer diagnostic procedures.
“We have also temporarily paused some outpatient services, so that we can maintain urgent appointments and assessments related to potential cancer diagnoses.”
She apologised to anyone who will have their treatment delayed, saying it was an “extremely difficult decision to make”.
More than 9,000 staff work in hospitals in the NHS board, which includes two University Hospitals at Ayr and Crosshouse near Kilmarnock, Ayrshire Central Hospital in Irvine and Biggart Hospital in Prestwick, as well as five community hospitals.
It comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the rate of increase of Covid-19 cases in Scotland appears to be slowing down, but warned cases are still “far too high”.
In a coronavirus statement at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, the First Minister told MSPs an increase of more than 70% in the average new daily cases was recorded between the week to August 22 and the week to August 29.
However, figures for the most recent week, to September 5, show a daily average of 6,304 – an increase of 9%.