WHISTON Hospital is reviewing non urgent operations and out patient appointments as winter pressures are causing long delays at accident and emergency departments.

Patients will be informed if their procedures are being postponed.

NHS England today instructed all hospitals to cancel all non-urgent operations and appointments to free up hospital staff and beds.

A spokesman for Cheshire and Merseyside NHS said: “Hospitals carry out fewer scheduled operations at this time of year as we plan for increased demand.

“Local hospitals are reviewing their existing scheduled appointments and operations and will contact patients directly if their appointment is to be rescheduled.

“If you have not been contacted, please attend as expected. Check your hospitals’ website in advance.

“Like the rest of the country, local hospitals continue to be extremely busy and we would like to thank our staff for all their hard work. Please only go to A&E if your condition is urgent or serious.”

Whiston Hospital says it is experiencing a high volume of patients, particularly frail and elderly people suffering from serious complications of flu and respiratory illness.

Patients are being urged to visit their local pharmacy if they get the flu or the winter vomiting bug norovirus.

Dr Kevin Hardy, medical director, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The flu and norovirus are pretty nasty and can make people feel very ill.

“However, most people do not need hospital care for these illnesses. “Emergency departments are very busy at this time of year and those attending with minor illnesses will wait, often for long periods.

“This is so we can look after patients with serious or life-threatening conditions.

“Spreading germs can also put other people at risk. We are asking the people of Merseyside to make sure they know what to do if they have flu or Norovirus.”

Sue Redfern, director of nursing, St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, added: “Keeping A&E free for people who really need it most helps us to help your loved ones.

“Our staff are working incredibly hard to look after our patients at a time of increased demand.

“Help support your NHS by taking this advice on board. It is also essential that family and friends of patients who may be ill or have symptoms of flu or have diarrhoea and vomiting do not visit their loved ones in hospital until they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours.”

Patients are advised to ensure they have their flu vaccination and to visit their local Pharmacy or call NHS 111 for advice on non-urgent illnesses.