Ayrshire MSP Brian Whittle has called for an end to the steady stream of rumours about the future of Ayr Hospital.

The South Scotland MSP expressed frustration with rumours about the hospital being wound down or plans for the closure of the A&E after hearing from NHS bosses that the stories were actually damaging their ability to recruit more staff.

Hospital chiefs and the Scottish Government have insisted there are no plans to close Ayr Hospital - or to shut down A&E service at the site overnight.

NHS Ayrshire & Arran have issued statements quashing reports of services at Ayr being wound down in response to them having to make changes to service provision due to staff shortages.

The health board recently took the decision to move Ayr’s Level 3 ICU bed provision to Crosshouse to avoid spreading specialist staff too thinly across two sites.

Ayr retains its Level 2 High Dependency Unit but for now the most critical patients will be treated at Crosshouse.

Mr Whittle said he is adamant that both Ayr and Crosshouse must have a future and that Ayr must retain its A&E and other key facilities.

But he said he feels there’s a need for improved community engagement by the health board and a recognition from the public that the health board are being forced to make tough decisions because of circumstances.

The MSP said: “Rumours about Ayr Hospital’s future are nothing new, but in recent months there seems to be an endless supply and I’m worried they’re becoming corrosive.

"A major factor in the decision to focus all ICU beds at Crosshouse was because of staff shortages and the difficulty in recruiting replacements.

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"How does it help that situation if medics considering working in Ayr are constantly confronted with politicians and stories in the local press citing anonymous sources proclaiming the hospital’s days are numbered?

"Speaking to the leadership team in NHS Ayrshire & Arran, I know how frustrated they are by the situation they find themselves in.

"Years of underfunding and mismanagement of the NHS by the Scottish Government have left NHS Ayrshire & Arran, and many other health boards, struggling to recruit staff and deal with their long waiting lists.

"At the same time, communities served by Ayr Hospital are quite rightly protective of it, especially after past battles over the A&E, and I have told the health board that they need to do better at explaining why they need to take these steps.

"While the distance between Ayr and Crosshouse hospitals might not look that big on a map, Ayrshire’s geography means that it really does need both these hospitals to properly serve communities.

"I’m clear that Ayr should retain its A&E and other key facilities, but I also recognise that there can be benefits to concentrating specialist equipment and staff at a single location, provided it’s genuinely accessible to all patients.

"Ultimately, we all want to see a better future for our health service and the best way to achieve that is by the health board and communities working together.

"I want to see how we can improve communication between NHS Ayrshire & Arran, community councils and other groups and get us all focussed on solving problems, not waste time and energy feeding the rumour mill.”