RUSSELLS Hall Hospital has declared a major internal incident as the emergency department battles to cope with unprecedented demand.

Emergency action plans are being put into place and patients are being warned they face many hours waiting for treatment as staff attempt to deal with unusually high numbers of admissions.

Hospital chiefs say the situation is being managed “from minute to minute” and have promised to keep patients fully informed.

Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust chief executive, Paula Clark, said: “The Trust has declared a major internal incident which means we are seeking the help of our partners to manage the situation. This is the first time in almost four years that the Trust has declared a major internal incident because of our capacity to manage emergency patients.

“We do not have staffing issues at the hospital. We have been experiencing high levels of emergency admissions since the middle of December 2013 and the capacity issues have come to a head today.

“As well as asking patients to only come to A&E if they are facing life threatening conditions, to help us manage the situation, we have asked West Midlands Ambulance Service to divert ambulances away from Russells Hall Hospital.

“We have asked the local authority to help us discharge additional patients to nursing homes and care homes, more than they would ordinarily do.

“We have cancelled outpatient clinics and postponed planned operating lists to get as many medical staff as possible to wards to manage the safe discharge of patients.”