ROYAL Bolton Hospital is cancelling routine operations and day cases to free up beds as it copes with an increase in sick patients, many with flu.

Operations have been postponed to make provision for the sickest patients during the period of winter pressures, say hospital bosses.

Flu is one element of this. Royal Bolton is currently caring for 33 flu patients, four of whom are in the intensive care (ICU) and high dependency units.

From Monday all routine inpatient operations and procedures and routine day cases that use inpatient beds as well as elective operations in its trauma and orthopaedic department, have been cancelled.

Routine cases and operations will resume on Thursday, February 1 and trauma and orthopaedic operations will resume Tuesday, February 6.

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Andy Ennis, chief operating officer, said: "I’m very sorry that we have to postpone some operations as I understand the anxiety that this can cause. However we need to do everything we can at this busy time in order to meet the needs of our sickest patients.

"We will aim to book patients back in at the earliest possible date."

Hospital staff are working through their lists to see which patients can be brought in as day cases instead of staying overnight.

However, patients are advised that they should assume their surgery is going ahead unless told otherwise. All those affected will be contacted.

Have you been affected? Let us know. Email or call 01204 537 271.

Royal Bolton staff had already planned for post-Christmas pressures and

had made sure not to carry out any routine operations in the first two weeks of January, this and opening an additional ward meant 70 extra beds for the first two weeks of 2018.

However, guidance from the National Emergency Pressures Panel has recommended the hospital and all other hospitals, make extra provision for the sickest patients.

The  high number of inpatients with the flu is affecting bed capacity.

A spokesman for the trust added: "The trust continues to see new flu cases at Royal Bolton Hospital at a consistent rate of around five new cases a day.

"The severity of illness is varied with many patients – around four out of every ten – being discharged home as hospital care is not required, whilst others require admission to a ward, or in the most serious cases, the Intensive Care Unit or High Dependency Unit, due to the infection or complications of their infection.

"Each case is different and the situation fluctuates, however the numbers of patients does now seem to be plateauing. 

"We would remind patients that flu can be serious for people with underlying health problems – for example children and adults with heart or lung disease and weakened immune systems. The over 65s, pregnant women and carers are also vulnerable to flu. More information on the risk groups for flu is available from NHS Choices or your GP. If you fit the criteria and haven’t had your vaccine already this year, then we would encourage you to be vaccinated. This year’s vaccine is proving to be effective against the current strain.

We would advise that for most people who are fit and healthy and don’t fit into one of the risk groups think twice before attending A&E or your GP surgery if you think you have flu. For most people, flu symptoms will resolve after five to seven days without treatment – you just need plenty of rest and fluids.