THE decisions to close Accident and Emergency units at Monklands and Ayr hospitals were being reversed today by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.

In a Ministerial statement at the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Ms Sturgeon was to confirm the SNP commitment made during the election campaign to keep both units open.

Her announcement overturns plans made by the previous Executive after a report by Professor David Kerr into the future delivery of health services in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said she would not simply accept the decisions of previous minister Andy Kerr and would take decisions that have "the patients' interest and public opinion very much at heart".

Today's announcement was backed by some Labour politicians, including Coatbridge and Chryston MSP Elaine Smith who campaigned to keep Monklands A&E open.

Ms Smith said: "It makes sense not just in terms of the health and well-being of people in Monklands but for people throughout Lanarkshire."

Fellow campaigner, Airdrie and Shotts MSP Karen Whitefield, said she always believed there was an "overwhelming" case for retaining the facilities at the Airdrie hospital.

She added: "I am sure the Minister will also give a cast iron guarantee that the investment of £100million to refurbish Monklands Hospital, committed by the previous Executive, will remain intact along with the planned new cancer centre."

Ayr Tory MSP John Scott also welcomed Ms Sturgeon's announcement.

However, the decision was attacked by former Health Minister Andy Kerr, Professor Kerr and John Browning, the former medical director of Lanarkshire Health Board.

Mr Kerr said: "What it says to me is evidence no longer matters, plans no longer matter - it's all about ill-thought through manifesto commitments."

The decision to close Monklands casualty came after NHS Lanarkshire said it could not staff three A&E units. They said there were strong arguments for keeping A&E units at Hairmyres, in Mr Kerr's East Kilbride constituency, and Wishaw General Hospital.

Professor Kerr has warned that Ms Sturgeon's decision will have "serious ramifications" for the NHS.