PATIENTS are being told to stay away from Worcester’s under-pressure A&E department unless they have a serious or life-threatening condition.

Staff at Worcestershire Royal Hospital say A&E has been tackling an unexpected surge in patients over the last week.

Even at busy times the hospital would normally expect about 160 attendances a day at A&E.

But over the last six days the average has been well over 200.

Even at 3am this morning there were more than 30 patients waiting for treatment while on Tuesday night nine ambulances arrived at the front door in the space of just half-an-hour.

While normally a move more associated with the challenging winter months, the A&E department has now been placed at escalation level four - its highest level of alert.

The sudden spike in numbers has left bosses scratching their heads for an explanation - as surges of this level only usually occur during particularly adverse winter weather.

As they try to get the situation under control they have ordered all hands to the pump, cancelling scheduled meetings and training to get as many doctors and nurses as possible on the wards.

They are also pleading with patients not to turn up at A&E unless their illnesses or injuries are serious - urging anyone with less serious conditions such as cuts, wounds and minor burns to head instead to one of the county’s minor injuries unit.

The numbers of patients attending A&E are also piling capacity pressures on the rest of the hospital - which is rapidly running out of room for patients to go.

As a result county-wide action plan to try and keep people away from hospital and speed up discharges for those who do need treatment has been fast-tracked.

A spokesman for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Our winter capacity ward is full and so there is nowhere else for them to go.

“The A&E department is currently at escalation level four and health and social care teams across the county are working closely together to ensure speedy discharge of patients who no longer require an acute bed.

“Winter admission avoidance schemes which were due to start from next week have been brought forward and routine meetings and training are being cancelled to release additional staff resources.”

Minor injury units are located at Malvern, Evesham, Tenbury, Pershore and Bromsgrove hospitals.

For opening hours visit Medical help can also be sought at Worcester Walk-in Health Centre, from GPs or via the GP out-of-hours service on 0300 123 3211.