Hospitals in Lanarkshire have returned to the 'highest risk level' today as the health board warns they are operating 'beyond agreed capacity protocols'.

In an update issued this evening, NHS Lanarkshire said that due to 'relentless pressures' caused by bed and staff shortages the University Hospitals Hairmyres, Monklands and Wishaw are all currently at maximum capacity.

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As a result of this, members of the community have been urged to only visit A&E if absolutely necessary with long wait times expected.

Instead, people are advised to contact NHS 24 on 111 to access the right care.

At the moment there have been no changes to visiting protocols, although the decision will be kept under review.

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Heather Knox, NHS Lanarkshire Chief Executive, said: “The safety of our patients and staff is our top priority and we are working through short and medium-term actions to increase staffing and also improve the flow of patients in and out of hospital.

“The impact of the current pressures is being felt right across the health and social care system, including GP practices which remain extremely busy.

“We recognise that our staff are doing everything they can and showing the highest levels of professionalism, commitment and resilience. 

"We hope that the current actions being taken will help ease the pressures on our staff and services.

“We recognise that experiencing long waits can lead to people getting frustrated but we ask that people be patient and be kind and considerate to our staff at all times.

"We are working extremely hard in very difficult circumstances to do the very best we can for each and every one of our patients.”

For more information on NHS Lanarkshire click here.