BOSSES at Royal Bolton hospital have issued a warning that wards are currently 'very busy' with waiting times of several hours.

This aims to try and limit preventable harm while staff adjust to the level of patients.

 An eyewitness meanwhile reported "ambulances queuing and people queuing down the road to book in."

Bolton Council executive member for wellbeing Cllr Sue Baines said: "The NHS is under a huge amount of strain and they're trying to catch up with all the services that were put on the back burner due to the Covid crisis.

"We're expecting a very heard winter and I'd like to advise people to only go to A&E if its a genuine emergency situation."

She added: "Staff are working very hard and we need to make sure they can direct all their efforts to people in urgent need."

Cllr Baines adviced that people whould try speaking to their GPs or phoning 111 before resorting to A&E.

This comes shortly after figures revealed hundreds of people who needed a hospital stay had to wait for more than a year to be admitted for treatment at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

NHS Digital statistics released earlier in October show around 385 patients needing non-emergency care at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust had waited more than a year to be checked into hospital in the year to March following the initial decision to admit them. Of those, 35 waited more than 18 months.

The figures do not include planned admissions where there is a personal or medical reason behind a delay.

In response the Patients Association charity has said patients should be given "honest timescales" for treatment and advice, support and compassion during their time on waiting lists.

Chief executive Rachel Power said: "The NHS must understand the impact on patients when planned care is cancelled or when you've no clear idea of when you may get care, and act in response.

"This means clear communication to patients and giving clear expectations about what might happen next.

"We know it will take many months before the waiting lists come down, but until they do, patients waiting must be supported and not left to wonder about what may happen to them."