Big increase in patients
Beleaguered staff at the Royal United Hospital say they are experiencing unprecedented demand for its services.
The hospital has seen an increase in emergency patients compared to the average figure for the past four years in each of the past four months.
Last month, there was a three per cent rise in emergency cases compared to the four-year average, to 5,677 people, while the increase was eight per cent in December.
Its managers are calling for people to make maximum use of minor injuries units in surrounding towns, along with the city's walk-in centre and NHS Direct.
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Its interim chief operating officer Francesca Thompson said: "There has been an unprecedented demand on our services, even busier than normal for this time of year, with no sign of let-up. The extra influx of patients is putting the hospital under extreme pressure, but our staff have responded magnificently and are working flat out to help keep the hospital running.
"The hospital's discharge arrangements are being reviewed on an hourly basis and we are also liaising closely with primary care trusts to effect timely discharge arrangements for patients and identify appropriate beds in the community."
Mrs Thompson said the arrival of patients in the emergency department with a minor injury diverted staff attention from people with more serious injuries who need to be admitted.