BOLTON health chiefs went over their staffing budget by more than £1m last month in a bid to tackle the winter sickness crisis.

Royal Bolton Hospitals Trust has confirmed it spent approximately£1.6m more than planned on total staffing costs during December.

Some of the additional staffing needs at the hospital have been met by bank and locum workers.

As with hospitals across the country Royal Bolton has been battling to cope with an increase in sick patients, many suffering with flu.

Measures to manage the increased demand over the colder months have included opening previously ‘mothballed’ wards, as well as cancelling routine operations and day cases.

Some 70 extra beds have been made available as a result of the effort to meet the rising demand caused by winter bugs.

A spokesperson for the trust said: “Before Christmas, to assist with national annual winter pressures, we planned to open two additional wards at Royal Bolton Hospital.

“Wards B2 and B4 are now open and staff are caring for patients on them. As a result of postponing planned operations until February.”

A ward which would have been used for operations has also been made available for those admitted with flu and other serious health conditions.

The spokesperson added: “We are also using one of our surgical wards to treat patients coming in to the hospital that have urgent care needs. “

But trust bosses say that the savings made by cancelling operations to match the costs of opening dozens of extra beds.

The trust spokesperson said: “As we are still carrying out urgent work and day-case operations, we do not expect to make a saving from not carrying out planned operations during January.”

Royal Bolton Hospital is currently dealing with XX flu cases.

But the staff caring for winter virus sufferers and other seriously ill patients are not necessarily those who would have otherwise been attending to patients before and after surgery.

The spokesperson added: “Operations have been postponed in line with many other trusts in the country, to make provision for the sickest patients during the period of winter pressures, of which flu is just one element which contributes to this.”