NHS Ayrshire and Arran has breached its initial coronavirus capacity in terms of hospital beds.

Figures show the health board had over 200 coronavirus admissions which is over the 169 beds that the Scottish Government uses as a planning figure for the board’s winter COVID-19 capacity.

The health board confirmed that there had been “outbreaks of COVID-19 in the lower risk areas among patients and staff” which at times led to “wards closing to new admissions which means additional beds cannot be used for a short period of time”.

The recent icy conditions have also added to the pressure hospitals in the region are under with a “large number of people attending hospital with broken bones as a result of falls” which has placed  “additional demand on our hospital beds”.

READ MORE: Almost 150 NHS Ayrshire and Arran staff self-isolating

Despite NHS Ayrshire and Arran breaching its initial COVID capacity, heath chiefs highlighted that they are dealing with a “very dynamic situation” and are working to increase capacity to “support rising demand”.

Ayrshire residents have also been urged to follow the latest restrictions or risk a “continued rise in hospital admissions and, tragically, more deaths”.

Dr Crawford McGuffie, Medical Director, for NHS Ayrshire and Arran said: “NHS Ayrshire and Arran and the three Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnerships have prepared extensively to deal with COVID-19. This planning has extended across the whole health and care system to ensure we have the right resources, equipment and staffing in place.

“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. This includes care workers, care homes, district nurses and GPs supporting vulnerable citizens at home and in the community, as well as emergency departments, admission units, wards and Intensive Care Units within the hospitals. The hard work and care provided by all staff under the current circumstances has been admirable.

“With the increase in COVID-19 admissions and, in line with other health boards across Scotland, we have increased our capacity to support rising demand. The situation is constantly monitored through daily operational and governance meetings. There are established links with Health Protection Scotland and with Scottish Government that are utilised for advice and guidance where appropriate.

“There are pathways for patients entering hospital with definite and suspected COVID-19 and separate pathways for those who are unlikely to have COVID-19, with a certain number of beds made available for each pathway. This is a very dynamic situation and the number of beds required for each pathway is subject to change to meet demand. Reporting a specific occupancy rate or available number of beds to treat COVID-19 may only be accurate for a short period of time.

“Despite the measures in place, there have been outbreaks of COVID-19 in the lower risk areas among patients and staff. This has, at times, resulted in wards closing to new admissions, which means additional beds cannot be used for a short period of time.

“Health and care services are always more stretched in winter due to other infections and the worsening of chronic conditions associated with the weather. The recent icy conditions resulted in a large number of people attending hospital with broken bones as a result of falls. This, combined with the number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 being greater than during the first phase has placed additional demand on our hospital beds.

“During the first phase of the pandemic, the response and the sacrifices made by everyone in Ayrshire and Arran was truly overwhelming. The new variant of COVID-19 appears to be more readily transmitted from person to person and it is now more important than ever to take steps to protect ourselves, our families, our communities and our NHS. If we do not do this then there will be a continued rise in hospital admissions and, tragically, more deaths.

This means a real possibility that demand for care will be greater than the capacity to provide it and services will be overwhelmed.

“The vaccination programme is bringing great hope and rightly so. However, this will take a few months to bring about change and, therefore it is of the utmost importance to take actions that will protect everyone by following the Scottish Government guidelines and restrictions.

“We need to remind people of the symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19): new persistent cough; high temperature; and / or loss of taste and smell. Anyone who develops any of these symptoms should book a test and self-isolate immediately.

We need to advise people that following this advice and FACTS guidance is now more important than ever:

F – Face coverings. These should be used in shops and on public transport (buses, trains and taxis)

A – Avoid crowded places.

C – Clean your hands frequently, using water & soap whenever possible.

T – Two metres – observe physical distancing.

S – Self-isolate and book a test if you are suffering from COVID-19 symptoms.”