Members of the public have been asked not to attend the A&E Department at Hinchingbrooke Hospital with anything other than “life-threatening” symptoms.

Members of the public have been asked not to attend the A&E Department at Hinchingbrooke Hospital with anything other than "life-threatening" symptoms.

In a statement released to the media on Wednesday the trust admitted it was dealing with "serious capacity issues" and has asked people to behave "responsibly" and consider other medical options before visiting A&E.

The trust has said it is currently experiencing high levels of acute admissions, far in excess of what it would normally expect for this time of year. "These capacity issues have been exacerbated by staff sickness and the slow discharge of patients who are fit to return home," the statement explained. Health chiefs have confirmed that no ambulances have been diverted to other hospitals, as neighbouring hospitals are in the same situation and struggling to deal with demand.

Although the A&E Department is experiencing high levels of admissions, the figures are down on the same period last year, but the department is struggling to meet its four-hour waiting time targets which such huge numbers of admissions.

In 2015, the figures for admissions were as follows, with 2016 figures in brackets.

18/12/2015 - 142 (126)

19/12/2015 - 127 (113)

20/12/2015 - 144 (102)

21/12/2015 - 117 (97).

Phil Walmsley, chief operating officer at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, said: "We would always ask people to consider whether heading straight to A&E for treatment is the right place for their illness or injury, but at this time of year it is even more important. It is a time when we see a greater number of patients, particularly the frail and elderly, who are suffering from complications caused by winter ills.

"Without wishing to be festive party poopers, it is worth reminding people not to drink to the level of excess that means a trip to hospital is required. This takes up valuable resources and has an impact upon waiting times for all patients."

The hospital is also experiencing an outbreak of Norovirus and has closed Apple Tree ward to new patients and restricted visiting.

On the hospital's website, a statement said; "We are currently experiencing norovirus within the trust and are dealing with a cluster of cases on our Apple Tree Ward, which has been closed to new patients.

We are asking members of the public not to visit the ward if at all possible, to prevent the spread of norovirus to other patients and staff.

For the protection of visitors and our patients, we have temporarily restricted visiting to one designated person per patient on Apple Tree Ward and are asking that they do not bring children with them during their visit."

INFO: The advice before attending A&E is to seek advice from a GP, pharmacy, minor injury and illness unit or call @NHS111.

More information is also available at the Cambs and Peterborough Choosewell website at: www.cambsandpeterboroughchoosewell.co.uk.