THE first steps are being taken to restart a range of health services in the Wee County as coronavirus restrictions slowly ease.

Not all NHS Forth Valley services will resume immediately, however.

And physical distancing measures will remain in place to protect both staff and patients.

In order to reduce the risks, people attending the hospital at Larbert as well as other healthcare settings will be asked to do so alone unless accompanying a child or a vulnerable adult.

If people are driving patients to an appointment, they are being asked to drop them off and return to pick up later to avoid overcrowding in waiting rooms and other communal areas.

This will be particularly important at Forth Valley Royal Hospital's Emergency Department.

Since the start of this week, everyone entering care homes and hospitals will be asked to wear a face covering and this will be also required when attending a hospital appointment.

Cathie Cowan, chief executive at NHS Forth Valley, said: "I would like to thank the public and patients for their patience and understanding during this very difficult time.

"I know that any delay in tests and treatment can be distressing for patients and their families and assure you that we are doing everything possible to get people seen and treated as soon as we can.

"This will be done by clinical priority to ensure that people with the most serious health needs are seen and treated first."

The NHS remains on an emergency footing, however, a number of services can be safely restarted on a phased basis.

Some already going include the colonoscopy unit at the hospital along with diagnostic services such as X-rays, CT and MRI scans.

General surgery is also being restarted on a phased basis, including urology, colorectal and cataract surgery as well as other specialities such as cardiology and orthopaedics.

People whose scheduled operation or treatment has been postponed are being asked to remain patient and will be contacted direct by staff to reschedule their appointment.

They are being asked no to contact their GP or hospital departments as they will be contacted as soon as alternative arrangements can be made.

The local health board's chief executive added: "I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our local staff for the way they have responded to this unprecedented crisis.

"They have shown great courage, commitment and compassion in caring for people throughout this pandemic while having to introduce radical new ways of working in a very short space of time.

"The scale and speed of these changes would not have been possible without the fantastic support of clinical teams and support services staff across the organisation."