Those booked in for elective surgery with NHS Ayrshire and Arran this month will find that their operation date has been pushed back as the health board has taken the difficult decision to suspend them until the end of this month.

Health bosses cite increasing numbers of Covid patients as the reason behind the move, which will leave many expectant patients frustrated at having to wait another month to get treated.

The healthboard said that case numbers in our area at the moment are higher than at any other time in the pandemic.

With more and more staff being deployed to help with Covid patients, the health board have decided the remaining staff will be prioritising cancer surgery and diagnosis and so elective surgeries will be suspended until the situation improves.

They have also "temporarily paused some outpatient services", so that they "can maintain urgent appointments and assessments related to potential cancer diagnoses."

Professor Hazel Borland, interim chief executive at NHS Ayrshire & Arran, explains: “The increase in cases of COVID-19 in our communities has had a direct impact on how we provide health and care services in Ayrshire and Arran.

“Increased 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 acute services, and primary and community care, with unprecedented demand for services compounded by staff absences.

“As a consequence of the pandemic, we remain under emergency planning conditions, and our Emergency Management Team remains entirely focused on taking action to ease the pressures on our health and care system and support patient and staff safety.

“We have, therefore, taken the very difficult decision again to temporarily suspend some planned services in order to redeploy staff to cover emergency care. We have temporarily paused elective surgery until the end of September. This is so that we can maintain cancer surgery and cancer diagnostic procedures.

“We have also temporarily paused some outpatient services, so that we can maintain urgent appointments and assessments related to potential cancer diagnoses.

“This was an extremely difficult decision to make and we would like to apologise to any patients who experience a delay in their surgery or outpatient appointment as a consequence of this decision. This will be kept under constant review and we would like to provide assurance that all efforts will be made to minimise these delays.

“As throughout the pandemic, all emergency and cancer related activity will continue during September at both hospitals.

“We know that professionally and personally this is an extremely challenging time for many of our staff. The Board have invested in staff hubs which have been available throughout the pandemic to support staff with their emotional and physical wellbeing, no matter what area of the health service they work in. We are continuing to encourage all staff to take advantage of the support available to them.

“I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the ongoing commitment 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.”