Frail and elderly residents are being relocated from a Belfast nursing home over "ongoing concerns" relating partly to management of a Covid-19 outbreak.

A recent watchdog inspection prompted urgent intervention at the 100-bed Clifton Nursing Home which caters for older people with dementia, Stormont health minister Robin Swann said.

A regulator of standards warned patients and staff could be put at risk of harm due to problems surrounding infection prevention.

The minister said: "I very much regret that this serious intervention has become necessary.

"There have been ongoing concerns about this home, with recent inspections from the RQIA and ongoing regulatory activity.

"Given the current situation facing care homes with Covid-19, decisive action is essential."

Extra resources have been directed by the NHS towards nursing homes across Northern Ireland amid concern about the impact of coronavirus.

The property at Hopewell Avenue near the Crumlin Road in the north of the city is part of Runwood Homes and has 100 beds.

Runwood Homes' website describes itself as leading the way in care for older people across the UK, including those living with dementia.

The minister said: "Action has been initiated to start relocating residents from Clifton Nursing Home in Belfast due to ongoing concerns about the way it is being run."

He added: "Senior nursing and other staff from Belfast Trust are and will continue to be on the ground in the home to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents.

"This will be essential to give the necessary time to move residents at a safe pace and in consultation with them and their families.

"The concerns about the home relate in part to its management of a Covid-19 outbreak."

An inspection of Clifton by Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) staff on 15 May identified concerns about governance, management and leadership.

The watchdog said: "Observations and discussion with staff during the inspection identified deficits in relation to the robustness of infection prevention and control practices and the implementation of the regional Covid-19 guidance."

Staff expressed concern about management.

The RQIA added: "RQIA were concerned that the issues relating to the day-to-day management of infection prevention and control were attributable to the lack of governance, oversight and leadership, and this had the potential to place patients and staff at risk of harm.

"RQIA were concerned that the home's management arrangements had been depleted.

"Therefore RQIA were not assured of the robustness of oversight and support for the management and staff team working in the home."

The minister said the action was being handled sensitively, with residents and families being closely consulted, but the situation was far from ideal.

"Moving frail and elderly people out of their home in this way will undoubtedly cause great stress and upset to them and their families."

He said the process could not happen overnight.

"As is so often the case at present, the health and social care system has had to choose the least worst option.

"I am deeply sorry that residents and their families are being put through this."