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Ambulances queue 5 hours to hand over patients to hospital

Hospitals were last night ordered to cancel thousands of operations to try to tackle a winter health crisis.

In an unprecedented move, NHS chiefs demanded radical action to free up beds and medical staff. Casualty units are under ‘extreme and sustained’ pressure with flu cases on the rise.

Up to 55,000 non-urgent operations will be postponed until February, along with thousands of outpatient appointments and scans. 

Managers will be allowed to put patients on mixed-sex wards and consultants will be assigned to casualty units to assess patients on arrival. Anyone not judged to be seriously ill faces being turned away.

It comes as an A&E consultant at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust apologised for the ‘third world conditions’ endured at his hospital this weekend.

Dr Richard Fawcett revealed that the department had run out of corridors to house patients. He blamed the crisis, which saw some patients have to wait for 12 hours, on overcrowding.

The first week of January is always busy with patients coming in with flu, chest infections, heart attacks and strokes. 

Government figures also reveal confirmed cases of flu have risen 50 per cent in a week and experts are worried about an especially aggressive ‘Australian’ strain.