NHS Ayrshire & Arran has joined NHS Lanarkshire in suspending elective surgery due to the rising number of coronavirus cases.
The health board said emergency surgeries and planned cancer operations will still take place where possible, however they will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may go ahead in a different location than to what was previously arranged.
Dr Crawford McGuffie said: “This phase of the pandemic is having the greatest impact on our communities in terms of positive cases, numbers admitted to hospital and sadly deaths. This is placing great strain on every aspect of the system.
“To ensure that we are able to provide care to the most urgent cases, emergency surgery will still go ahead, and where possible, planned cancer surgeries will also take place.
“Our clinical staff will liaise closely with patients who are impacted and we very much appreciate the understanding of members of the public in these challenging times.
“Patients should be reassured that their safety is our number one priority and we are taking all necessary steps to ensure that any risk as a result of exposure to Covid-19 is minimised.”
Earlier on Tuesday, NHS Lanarkshire announced it was suspending all non-urgent elective procedures and a range of outpatient appointments to focus on Covid-19 inpatients and emergency care.
The health board said 288 people are currently being treated for coronavirus in its hospitals, with only 46 free beds left.
A number of clinically urgent and priority procedures will continue as planned.
Treatments for urgent cancer care will remain in place and all three acute sites will continue to operate an emergency service for theatres and diagnostics.
From Wednesday, the health board said the majority of outpatient appointments will be stood down in order to redeploy nurses to support urgent and emergency inpatient care.
Maternity and neonatal clinics will continue as normal, as well as appointments for urgent referrals, including cancer referrals.
It is expected to last for at least four weeks.
Judith Park, director of acute services for NHS Lanarkshire, 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.
“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.
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.
Ms 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.”