Extra beds are being opened and managers drafted in to look after patients as NHS hospitals face staffing problems and a surge in winter emergencies.
NHS trusts around the country are pleading with people only to go to A&E if they are in a genuine emergency to make sure the most urgent patients are given priority.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust, which runs Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury hospitals, is among NHS organisations where patients are facing long waits in A&E.
David Melia, Mid Yorkshire’s director of quality and nursing, said: “Like all hospitals across the country our A&E departments have been busier than usual over the last week.
“Patients are seen in order of clinical priority which means that people with less urgent needs may wait longer to be seen and some people who need admission may have to wait longer than usual in the A&E departments for a bed to become vacant.
“We are doing all we can to alleviate the pressures across our hospitals. Demand levels are monitored around the clock by clinical and management teams and well planned arrangements are put in place to manage peaks in demand.
“These include deploying clinicians to focus on managing urgent cases and timely discharge, opening up extra beds and clinical managers covering shifts on the wards to provide extra staff.”
Warnings that A&E departments are struggling to cope were issued after cases of the winter vomiting bug norovirus reached their highest level in five years in England.
Mid Yorkshire had to close 28 beds on December 20 because of the virus, latest figures show.
Eight beds were still closed by the bug the following day at Mid Yorkshire, which is among the busiest NHS trusts in the country for A&E attendances.
People are being advised not to visit friends of relatives in hospital if they have symptoms of norovirus or flu.
Mid Yorkshire tweeted yesterday: “Our A&Es are extremely busy - please don’t attend if you have flu or norovirus. Contact your GP, walk-in centre or ring NHS 111.”
Public Health England Figures show there have been almost 2,500 reports of norovirus this winter, 12 per cent more than average for the same period over the past five years.