Non-urgent elective operations in NHS Lanarkshire will be postponed for another three weeks, the health board has announced.
It postponed the procedures for four weeks last month amid pressures caused by coronavirus and winter strain on NHS services.
The health board said the extension will enable staff to focus on Covid-19 patients and emergency care.
Most outpatient appointments are also being stood down to enable nurses to be redeployed to support urgent and emergency inpatient care.
The health board hopes to reintroduce non-urgent elective procedures at the beginning of March if Covid-19 hospital admissions continue to fall.
The number of patients being treated in Lanarkshire hospitals with the virus peaked at around 350 during the second half of January and fell to 235 on Wednesday.
Intensive care unit (ICU) Covid-19 patient numbers peaked at 25 in late January and currently stand at 21.
Judith Park, NHS Lanarkshire director of acute services, said: “The number of Covid-19 patients in our hospitals has stabilised and is showing signs of falling, albeit gradually. However, ICU numbers remain high and there is still continued pressure on our resources.
“To ensure our services operate as safely as possible, we have taken the decision to extend the postponement of non-urgent outpatient appointments and planned procedures at all our acute sites for a further three weeks.
“However, we are optimistic we will be able to reintroduce these procedures from the first week of March if the numbers in our hospitals continue to fall.
“The safety of our patients is always our top priority. Winter is always a difficult time for the NHS and the current pandemic has had an additional impact on our services.”
She apologised for the impact on patients of postponing appointments, and said a small number would go ahead as scheduled, based on clinical need.
Maternity and neonatal clinics will continue as normal, as will appointments for urgent referrals, including those for cancer.
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