HOSPITALS in the West of Scotland could be pushed to breaking point this winter if health boards struggle to cope with an expansion of flu jabs, it has been warned.

NHS Lanarkshire has red flagged their vaccination programme as ‘very high risk.’

The Scottish Government is finalising plans to make the flu jab available to more people this winter, potentially anyone over 50, in preparation for a possible second wave of Covid-19.

In official documents NHS Lanarkshire warns that Covid related anxiety and increased awareness amongst the public could lead to a surge in requests for the flu jab, even beyond those added to the eligibility criteria.

READ MORE: Number of days in coronavirus isolation to increase amid concern over second wave 

The board also raises concerns about staffing and the ability to vaccinate safely taking into account social distancing requirements and said the appointment system would require to be “outsourced”.

It warns: “These factors have the potential to adversely impact on population health and avoidance of hospital admissions during the winter period.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it is exploring a number of options to help increase capacity amid the "new challenge" of Covid.

Currently, people with a health condition, those over 65 years old, pregnant women, healthcare workers and carers are eligible for the vaccine in Scotland - along with primary school children and children with a health condition, who will be offered the vaccine from six months of age.

READ MORE: Number of businesses linked to new coronavirus cluster in Greater Glasgow 

Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon described the board's statement as a “cry for help” and said she has written to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman asking for an urgent response.

She said: “We must be prepared for the worst-case scenario, including a double pandemic, and these board papers are a massive wake-up call to Scottish Ministers to live up to their responsibilities.

“If our NHS doesn’t have the resources it needs to vaccinate people we could see flu-related illnesses rocket.”