Hospital appointments and non-urgent operations could be postponed

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'Services which can provide a longer term benefit to patients, for example falls prevention, help people to live independently and ease the pressure on emergency care by reducing A&E admissions'.

Tony McDonald, deputy director of Operations at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "As with the majority of other hospitals nationwide, our Emergency Care Department has been experiencing a surge in demand over the Christmas and New Year period".

The data held by Public Health England shows the flu season now underway across England and will spread to the rest of the UK.

Authorities have told hospitals to defer routine outpatient appointments and focus on emergencies, the BBC reports.

"Both acute hospitals are urging local people to do everything they can to support discharge".

"It's not going to get any better, despite the Government saying they'll pump in a few million into the NHS".

They are being dispatched in fire engines or cars to treat patients who have suffered cardiac arrests, strokes, fits or heavy bleeding.

'And we recognise that it is better, if you are unfortunately going to have to cancel or postpone some operations, to do it in a planned way, and that's why this year this independent panel has chose to take this decision.

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They warned beds that could have been used by A&E were being blocked because community hospital transfer beds had been axed.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has said that waiting lists for surgery will rise and many new treatments will prove unaffordable because his £110 billion budget is not enough.

In a statement, the Department of Health said: We know the NHS is extremely busy - as it always is at this time of year - but hardworking staff are taking the necessary steps to make sure patients continue to get seen as quickly as possible.

Last night, Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: 'Last winter we said, "This is the worst in 15 years".

She called for people to cancel appointments in "good time".

According to the National Emergency Pressures Panel (NEPP), the NHS has been under sustained pressure over the Christmas period with high levels of respiratory illness, high bed occupancy levels, and early indications of increasing flu prevalence.

The drastic step is to try to free up hospital staff and beds.

In addition to intensive care admissions, 758 people were admitted to general hospital wards in England with flu, including so-called "Aussie flu" - up from 421 in the last week of December and 66 the previous week.

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