The public have been told to avoid Ayrshire's A&E departments unless they need to today.

Heath chiefs say they're operating under "extreme pressures" and that emergency departments should only be attended by those who are seriously ill.

NHS Ayrshire & Arran bosses say staff absences, high occupancy rates, delayed transfers of care and high volumes of frail and ill patients requiring complex care has resulted in the fragile situation.

Professor Hazel Borland, interim chief executive, 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, delayed transfers of care and high volumes of frail and ill patients requiring complex care.

“This is resulting in pressures across the whole urgent care system and can ultimately mean longer waits for telephone consultations; longer waits for assessment or reviews within primary and community care; delays to assessment in the Emergency Departments and Combined Assessment Units; delays to admission to wards; and delays to discharge.

“Our dedicated staff are working tirelessly to try and improve the situation under challenging conditions. 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.

“While most patients coming through our Emergency Departments are ill and need to be there, we know that some people who attend our EDs would receive more appropriate and quicker treatment elsewhere.

“So, we are urging members of the public to stop, think, and ask ‘Is it an emergency?’ If it is an emergency, come straight to the Emergency Department.

“That way we can ensure that our Emergency Departments are there for those who need it most – those with life-threatening emergencies and injuries.”

Patients who attend A&E and their condition does not need emergency department treatment will be directed to a more "appropriate service."

These include a GP surgery at a different time, NHS24, pharmacy, emergency dental service, pregnancy services and sexual health services.

Professor Borland adds: “Redirecting patients to more appropriate services will help our Emergency Departments run more efficiently and patients will be seen quicker.

“If it’s not an emergency, call NHS 24 on 111 and you will be assessed over the telephone and referred to the right healthcare professional. We know that you may need to wait a while for your call to be triaged. However, calling NHS24 from the comfort of your own home can avoid unnecessary trips to hospital and allow you to access care as close to home as possible.

The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now.

Get all the local news in your area – plus features, football news and the latest on the coronavirus crisis – at your fingertips 24/7.

The free download features the latest breaking news and exclusive stories while you can customise your page with the sections that matter to you.

The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now on iOS and Android.

“We want to make sure that the right patient is seen at the right time, at the right place, and by the right clinician. Our key message is to let people know the most appropriate time to visit an ED, and what are the available alternatives.”

NHS 24 can also provide appointments for minor injury assessments to reduce the length of time spent waiting in busy hospital waiting rooms.

Self-care information is also available on NHS Inform. Or, local pharmacy, GP or dental practice or optician may be the most appropriate route to treatment and care.

For more information on NHS Inform visit:

Professor Borland adds: “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.

“And so I would urge the public to please be patient, kind and respectful towards our staff, who are working under very difficult circumstances. Thank you.”

Don't miss the latest Ayrshire headlines –sign up to our free daily newsletter here