NHS Ayrshire and Arran is under ‘significant pressure’, health chiefs have said, as nearly 200 members of staff are absent because of Covid.

And ambulances are being diverted from University Hospital Crosshouse to University Hospital Ayr – 19miles away – due to the Kilmarnock facility being unable to attend to all patients.

On January 5, management confirmed that there were 188 staff currently off because of Covid.

Dr Crawford McGuffie, medical director at the health board, said: “An increase in 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 our services including acute, primary and community care.

“As of Wednesday, January 5, 2022, we currently have 188 staff self-isolating at home as a result of testing positive for Coronavirus.

“This is an extremely challenging time for many of our staff.

"We are extremely grateful to our teams for the continued support to patient care under difficult circumstances, while also providing support to colleagues.”

Joan Edwards, director of acute services, said last Thursday: "Due to current pressures at University Hospital Crosshouse we are diverting ambulances to University Hospital Ayr for a short period of time.

“This is in the interest of patient safety and will allow us to continue to provide the highest quality of care possible.

"There are times when we experience a high demand for our unscheduled care services and our staff work extremely hard to assess and treat patients as quickly as possible.

“We have in place contingency measures to cope with any surge in demand and our two acute hospitals work hand in hand to receive emergency patients as the need arises.”

She encouraged members of the public to consider whether their ailments necessitate a trip to A and E, adding: “If it is an emergency, come straight to the Emergency Department or phone 999, otherwise there may be other services that can treat you quicker and closer to home.”

Data shows that in Ayrshire and Arran there were 101 people in hospitals with a Covid related illness and less than five in ICU.