NURSES were forced to call in police after a large group visiting a mother and newborn baby became aggressive and threw objects at them.

The group of 30, who were trying to visit the same patient, had to be dispersed from the Royal Bolton Hospital's postnatal ward by officers.

An eyewitness said they were "screaming" at staff and police and even waited outside to throw objects at staff as they were leaving.

Hospital rules allow only three visitors to see a patient on the ward at the same time.

Police said they dispersed the crowd after being called at 7.22pm on Saturday January 3, and did not make an arrest.

A hospital spokesman issued a reminder to visitors that any "verbal or physical" aggression towards staff would not be tolerated.

The witness, who wished to remain anonymous, said it had been a terrifying incident for staff.

He said : "They were screaming at staff and security and shouting at the police.

"When they eventually left the premises they stood outside and hurled things at the staff leaving.

"I was visiting a family member, never seen anything so disgusting in my life, visiting is to protect the babies and mothers, the midwives did not deserve that. No respect."

The incident came just days before the Royal Bolton declared a "major incident" status as it struggled to cope with the number of people using A&E.

The status was downgraded at 8pm on Tuesday night, but hospital bosses said they were still battling "overcrowding".

Heather Edwards, director of communications at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We have a policy that no more than three visitors per bed should be on the postnatal ward.

"This is for the safety of mothers and babies.

"Unfortunately on Saturday a large number of people arrived to visit a small number of new mums and their babies, and staff had to remind them of our policy.

"Some visitors objected to this and our staff were subjected to aggressive and threatening behaviour. Staff called security who called the police. We would like to remind visitors to the maternity unit not only to abide by our policy, which is for the safety of mothers and babies, but also that we will not tolerate verbal or physical aggression towards our staff."

A police spokesman said: "There was a large group of people that had become aggressive.

"About 20 to 30 people had wanted to visit someone and the nurses had stepped in to say they could not do that.

"We dispersed the group, who left the ward, and did not make any arrests."