PEOPLE in Ayrshire are being urged to think twice about attending hospital emergency departments after health board bosses admitted they are facing "extreme pressures" amid mounting staff absences.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran chiefs issued the warning this week, stating that services are strained and a series of factors are contributing to longer wait times for patients.

The health board's chief executive pledged that staff are "working tirelessly to try and improve the situation under challenging conditions".

Claire Burden said: “Our urgent and unscheduled care services in both University Hospitals Ayr and Crosshouse are under extreme pressure at this time.

"This is due to a combination of staff absence across the whole health and care system, high occupancy levels in our hospitals, some waits for transfers of care into the community, including high volumes of frail and ill patients requiring complex care.

“These combined pressures can result in longer waits and I am sorry when this happens.

"There may be longer waits for telephone consultations; longer waits for assessment or reviews within primary and community care; delays to assessment in the emergency departments and our combined assessment units; delays to admission to wards; and delays when planning a discharge.

"We ask for your patience and support in these matters. We continue to triage patient presentations and will prioritise our patients based on clinical need."

People who may be seeking treatment at hospitals are now being asked to "consider all the alternatives".

Ms Burden said: “While most patients coming through our emergency departments are unwell and need to be there, we know that some people who attend would receive more appropriate and quicker treatment elsewhere.

“We are asking that members of our community do stop, think, and ask ‘Is it an emergency situation?’ If it is an emergency, come straight to the emergency department. If not, do consider all the alternatives.

“We want to do all we can to ensure our emergency departments are there for those who need it most – those with life-threatening emergencies and injuries.”

Patients may be redirected to their GP surgery at a different time, NHS24, or a local pharmacy.

Ms Burden added: “Our staff are working extremely hard to care for those living in Ayrshire and Arran.

"I would like to take the opportunity to thank our staff for their continued efforts. I am immensely proud of and grateful to our staff who continually go above and beyond the call of duty to look after those who need our care.

“I would like to close by asking our communities of NHS Ayrshire and Arran to please be patient, kind and respectful towards our staff, who are working under very difficult circumstances.”