MSPs have challenged the Scottish Government on the support it is giving to NHS Ayrshire and Arran amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes after it was revealed that the heath board had breached its winter COVID capacity in terms of hospital beds, had more than 150 staff self-isolating and had to suspend elective surgery.

Cunninghame North and SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson asked Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) last week what “practical and financial assistance” would the Scottish Government provide “to alleviate the immediate pressure to protect and support patients and NHS staff?”

The First Minister responded: “We have allocated more than £700,000 to specifically support NHS Ayrshire and Arran through the winter period. We continue to explore all options to ensure that the most urgent patients are treated, which includes those on a cancer pathway. NHS Ayrshire and Arran is specifically sending patients to the Golden Jubilee hospital for breast cancer surgery and diagnostic testing.”

READ MORE: NHS Ayrshire and Arran suspends elective surgery

Speaking after FMQs Mr Gibson said: “NHS Ayrshire and Arran is at the centre of a perfect storm. It is deeply distressing for the patients concerned that they may have to wait even longer, possibly in pain, for their elective operation.

“I have been reassured however that operations relating to life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and heart disease are continuing and I am heartened that the Scottish Government has provided both additional cash resources and using those of the Golden Jubilee hospital, specifically for breast cancer and diagnostic testing.”

West Scotland MSP Jamie Greene has also called for the Scottish Government to ensure the health board is “fully resourced”.

He said: “Reports that NHS Ayrshire and Arran’s COVID-19 capacity is under severe pressure are concerning and the Scottish Government must ensure that the health board is fully resourced in order to cope with the mounting challenges that they are facing. This serves as a stark reminder of the need for us all to keep following government guidance.

“Vaccinating our health workers and vulnerable groups must also be a top priority so that we can protect those most at risk from coronavirus.”