Ayr Hospital will lose its three intensive care beds in the next few days, health chiefs have confirmed.

The three beds in the intensive care unit (ICU) at University Hospital Ayr, which provide specialist care for the most severely ill or injured patients, will be moved to Crosshouse on Monday, March 11.

It follows almost a year of concern about services at the Ayr site being reduced, with some suggesting accident and emergency care at the hospital would also be cut.

But the chief executive of NHS Ayrshire and Arran has insisted - not for the first time - that the move is an "interim" one - and is NOT part of a plan to close down Ayr Hospital, despite public fears. 

Patients already using the ICU beds will be transferred in a staged process during the week.

Any future patient who presents to University Hospital Ayr and who requires level 3 care will be stabilised and transferred by the dedicated transfer team to Crosshouse.

NHS bosses insisted most critical care services would continue to be provided from both Ayrshire hospitals.

Ayr Advertiser: NHS Ayrshire Chief Executive Claire Burden

Chief executive Clare Burden said: "Within NHS Ayrshire & Arran, critical care services are currently provided from both University Hospitals Ayr and Crosshouse, with an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and High Dependency Unit (HDU) in each.

“However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain the current critical care service model on the University Hospital Ayr site due to significant difficulties in recruiting senior medical staff.

“To secure the safety and sustainability of critical care services across the organisation, we need to make interim changes to how the services operate.

“This means that from week beginning March 11, the three level 3 beds in University Hospital Ayr will transfer to Crosshouse. The number of ICU beds in Crosshouse will increase from nine to 12."

She added: “No new patients will be admitted to ICU at Ayr from March 11. For patients already in ICU who will need to transfer from Ayr to Crosshouse, we will do this in a staged process across the week.

"We will work closely with our colleagues in the Scottish Ambulance Service, and will have a dedicated transfer team comprising appropriately trained nursing and medical staff to ensure the safe transfer of patients.

"We will also ensure that we communicate with the families of patients who need to transfer to Crosshouse, so that they are fully aware of the transfer process, and what we are doing to keep their loved one safe.”

Critical care includes intensive care and high dependency units.

Critical care is needed if a patient needs specialised monitoring, treatment and attention, for example, after routine complex surgery, a life-threatening illness or an injury.

The health board says critical care provision will continue at University Hospital Ayr from a newly formed critical care unit (Level 2 care).

This will be an eight-bedded unit, formed from the four HDU beds currently in the area, plus the four medical high care beds which are currently located in the hospital's combined assessment unit (CAU).

Me Burden added: "This means that we can ensure that the sickest patients in the hospital will be cared for in one area.

“We know that some people will be worried about these interim changes, and what this may mean if they or their loved one needs critical care services.

“However, this interim change is designed to address significant workforce gaps, which would otherwise place our critical care services at risk of becoming impossible to sustain.

“By introducing these interim changes, we can ensure that those people who need the highest level of critical care will have access to an intensive care medicine consultant 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I would like to reassure members of the public and our staff that this is not part of a bigger plan to close University Hospital Ayr.

"University Hospital Ayr is, and will remain, integral to how we deliver healthcare to the people of Ayrshire.

“NHS Ayrshire and Arran would like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the incredible pressure workforce shortages has put on some of our teams across our health and care services.”

For more information on the critical care services and what the changes will mean for patients, please visit https://jointheconversation-nhsaaa.co.uk/hub-page/critical-care-services-in-nhs-ayrshire-arran.