WARNING bells are being sounded at Worcester’s A&E department after a surge in emergency patients over Christmas.

While for many the festive period has been a time to relax, staff in A&E at Worcestershire Royal Hospital have been battling to keep up with huge levels of demand.

High demand is also being experienced in A&E at Redditch Alexandra Hospital, although it is Worcester that is causing “particular challenges”.

A&E attendances across Worcestershire Acute Trust are 10 per cent up on this time last year and emergency admissions are consistently running at more than 1,000 a week - well up on what would normally be expected.

The ongoing spike in demand has seen the highest level of escalation - level four - declared at the site, with “radical” measures now being put in place to keep the situation under control.

Extra beds are being opened and all scheduled operations other than the most urgent have been cancelled for the rest of the week.

Worcestershire Acute Trust says it is working closely with other local health organisations to ensure that people are not being sent to hospital unnecessarily and that problems with “bed blocking” - where patients cannot be discharged quickly when they no longer need acute care are avoided.

“Partner agencies are working closely with the trust to ensure that all alternatives to hospital attendances are in place and accessible and that patients no longer requiring acute care can be safely and quickly discharged to a more appropriate setting,” an acute trust spokesman said.

Patients are also being urged to do their part by only coming to A&E if it is absolutely necessary. They should consider alternatives such as walk-in centres and minor injuries units, while GP surgeries are open as usual this week except for New Year’s Day.

The acute trust says staff are doing all they can to tackle the surge in demand.

“We would like to place on record our thanks to all staff for their hard work and commitment at this time,” the spokesman said.

The situation is a flashback to last winter, when A&E departments in Worcestershire came under sustained and “unprecedented” demand.

In response to the difficulties, Worcestershire Acute was one of 53 trusts chosen by health secretary Jeremy Hunt to get extra funds to help it cope this winter - receiving £1 million out of a total pot of £250 million.