ROYAL Bolton Hospital has been forced to cancel operations and appointments following an outbreak of norovirus.

Two wards have been closed to new patients, 184 outpatient appointment cancelled and a further nine non-urgent operations have been postponed.

Health chiefs blame the cancellations on both the discovery of the diarrhoea and vomiting bug as well as pressure on the service caused by people coming to A&E for minor treatment when they should go elsewhere.

Andy Ennis, Chief Operating Officer at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: "I’d like to apologise to anyone who is affected by this, and would like to assure them that we will look to rearrange appointments as soon as possible.

"This step is being taken in the best interests of patient safety so that while we are under heavy pressure we can concentrate on those people whose need is most urgent."

Cancellations, which also include outpatient appointments at the Bolton One centre in Moor Lane, started today and will continue tomorrow.

Affected clinics include Care of the Elderly, Cardiology, Respiratory, Gastroenterology and Endocrinology.

Fifty eight beds are unavailable to new patients at the hospital after symptoms of norovirus were discovered on four wards.

Acute frailty unit B1 and medical assessment ward D4 remain closed to new admissions.

The areas have been closed off to reduce the risk of the virus spreading, and the trust said it continued to review the situation.

People are being reminded not to visit the hospital if they have had recent symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting.

Patients whose appointments are being affected are being contacted by telephone.

Heather Edwards, head of communications at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, added: "Norovirus used to be known as the 'winter vomiting bug'. These days it is not unusual to see cases year round.

"It did not start in the hospital and in many cases comes in with people, including visitors and admissions.

"When it is brought in, because it is so contagious it can spread very quickly."

Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK and normally clears up by itself in a few days.

NHS England recommends anyone with the symptoms of sudden sickness, projectile vomiting and severe diarrhoea to stay at home, drink plenty of water and wait for it to run its course.

Bolton's NHS Foundation Trust first issued a warning for people with the symptoms to stay away from the hospital and other health facilities following the admission of patients potentially carrying the virus last week.