Health chiefs are being urged to use additional bed capacity at Vale of Leven Hospital to deal with the increased pressure on the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

The call has come from Jackie Baillie MSP who said that during previous bouts of widespread ill-health, such as winter flu outbreaks, the hospital’s empty wards were used to provide beds for the increased number of patients needing to be hospitalised.

The MSP for Dumbarton is due to meet the chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on Friday when she will urge her to use the resources available at the Vale.

She said: "This will benefit not only those in the immediate surrounding area but patients throughout the health board as it helps to deal with the pressure due to the pandemic.

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“Now is the time for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to take full advantage of the spare bed capacity offered by the Vale of Leven hospital.

"The Greater Glasgow and Clyde area currently has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and these numbers will only continue to rise."

Ms Baillie said the board must act now to ensure there is enough space for patients to receive proper care and attention.

"It would be irresponsible to leave wards at the Vale of Leven hospital lying empty when larger hospitals across Scotland are nearing full capacity."

At Friday's meeting she will urge the board chief executive to act now "to combat the problem".

Ms Baillie added: "The health of patients is paramount and it is vital that the health board does everything in its power to provide the best standard of care possible.

"That means opening up the Vale so that it can operate at full capacity."

A spokesperson for the health board said: "We want to thank all staff at the Vale of Leven Hospital for continuing to care for patients and keep them safe in response to COVID-19.

"The hospital continues to play a vital role in providing services for patients in West Dunbartonshire.  

"We have robust plans in place to ensure our services are as resilient as possible in response to COVID-19.

"As part of this, we are considering the use of all of our facilities, resources and staff in order to treat patients.

"We look forward to meeting with Jackie Baillie MSP on Friday to discuss this."