A HOSPITAL has declared a "critical incident" as it is so busy.
Overstretched staff at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, Devon, require "urgent help" covering shifts amid rising Covid cases.
There are already 51 people being treated for the virus – the highest number of the third wave – and more are expected to be admitted by this time next week.
There are also scores of other patients well enough to be discharged, but they are unable to return home due to a shortage of staff who can issue prescriptions.
Workers are "constantly" being asked to cover extra shifts to help with the backlog, while all hospital services are being impacted by the strain.
At 11pm on Tuesday there were 130 people waiting to be seen in the emergency department when the hospital "would expect things to be a lot quieter".
Routine surgery appointments are being cancelled to accommodate Covid patients, while visitor numbers are restricted to avoid "inadvertently spreading the virus", deputy medical director Paul McArdle said.
The high bed occupancy and "sustained level of A&E attendance", coupled with staff absence during the summer holidays, has created the perfect storm.
Jo Beer, Chief Operating Officer at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust said: "The Trust entered an internal critical incident on Monday.
"This is an internal protocol to focus all departments on immediate de-escalation actions whilst in OPEL4 (the highest level of escalation).
"The incident was declared due to high bed occupancy and a sustained high level of Emergency Department attendance converting into an above-average level of admission.
"We are experiencing our highest level of Covid occupancy of the third wave and expect this to increase further – as a result we have reconfigured our bed capacity to manage both Covid and non-Covid capacity but this needs continual review.
"Pressure is also being felt in the region’s wider health and social care system, this presents some impact on the ability to discharge patients into the community care settings when medically fit."
The Trust also said it is there to help in an emergency but urged people to "consider all options when accessing urgent care".
It is the second UK hospital today to issue a warning to the public as pressure on the wards mounts.
James Paget University Hospital in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, earlier urged the public not to attend A&E unless it is a "genuine emergency".
The hospital is seeing "large numbers" of patients attending unnecessarily, meaning longer wait times.
Officials have told people to consider going to their local pharmacies for advice with minor issues, and to call 111 to help asses their medical needs.
A spokesman for the trust said: "We’re continuing to ask you not to come into our A&E unless it is a genuine emergency.
"In some cases we are seeing patients coming in when their local pharmacist may have been able to give advice and assistance.
"Our team have been working incredibly hard and, if you are in the waiting room, you will not be aware of how many patients with life-threatening emergencies they are dealing with behind the scenes.
"Please help us to help you – choose your health care wisely and please respect those who are dedicated to treating you, your friends and your family – and please share this message."
They also said that abuse towards staff has become significantly more frequent in the past weeks, and asked people to show them some "courtesy".
The statement continued: "Sadly, recently our staff have been dealing with increasing amounts of rude and abusive behaviour.
"Patients are dealt with on the basis of clinical need, so if you come in as a non-emergency you may face a wait.
"Please do not abuse our staff and please show them some courtesy – disrespectful behaviour towards the team that are working hard to help you and other patients is simply unacceptable."
Official data shows Covid deaths have risen to their highest since March, with 571 people having had the virus on their death certificates last week.
This is a rise of eight per cent on the week before, and back to levels last seen in the depths of the latest lockdown.
A further 149 fatalities were reported today, as well as another 35,847 cases.
Cornwall now has the highest Covid rate in England, with many speculating this is down to a rise in visitors opting for UK holidays instead of abroad.
Infections have doubled in a week, with more than 4,500 recorded in the past week.
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