THE chief executive of the NHS trust that runs the Countess of Chester Hospital has spoken out about the “unprecedented” pressures facing staff this winter.

Tony Chambers said that in December the Liverpool Road hospital admitted 100 more patients than it was able to discharge.

Furthermore, it saw the busiest Christmas Day and Boxing Day ever with 433 people attending A&E – up from 343 last year.

In a blog posted on the website of the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Mr Chambers thanked staff for their resilience.

“I want to thank all of our staff who kept us going in challenging circumstances,” he said.

“We’ve been talking about demand outstripping supply for some time within our healthcare system and that’s exactly what we’ve seen across the country in the first week of 2018. We can’t discharge patients that are either acutely unwell or do not have the package of care they need in the community. We have seen unprecedented numbers of patients falling into these categories this winter.”

Last month also saw a significant increase in people suffering broken hips, with 45 cases of fractured neck of femurs compared to around 25 in previous months.

Mr Chambers said: “When patients come in with this injury, which can be incredibly painful, they need to have an operation quickly and then spend at least a week or two recovering in hospital so this rise has also impacted on our capacity.

“To deal with this increased volume and acuity, like many hospitals, we are cancelling planned operations and appointments. I would like to say sorry to anyone affected by their treatment being postponed as we are forced to prioritise emergencies.

“This is not a decision that is ever taken lightly because of how upsetting delays can be, but by doing this we have been able to free up senior doctors and nurses to help find ways to relieve some pressure where possible. I’d also like to thank our GP colleagues and others in the community who have been kept aware of our situation and helped where they can.”

He again urged people only to go to A&E in an emergency, but stressed the current backlogs were not being caused by people turning up at hospital with mild conditions.

Mr Chambers wrote: “You might have seen that on social media we’ve been putting out messages encouraging people to ‘Choose well’ and only come to our A&E if it is absolutely necessary. It’s always a fine balancing act deciding to put out messages like this because, while it’s absolutely correct, we don’t want people who need to be here for a true emergency to not attend. After all it’s not incorrect presentations that are causing the backlogs we are seeing, people are generally sicker.”

He added: “What always amazes me is how resilient, kind and good-humoured our staff are even when we’re facing pressures like this. On New Year's Day I spoke to staff on many of our wards and, even after all this time working for the NHS, it is heart-warming to see the high levels of care and can-do attitude they continue to show despite their intense workload. If you visit us and are equally impressed please let our staff know. Your kind feedback really gives everybody a lift.

“We will get through this tough period. We will keep doing everything we can to improve in 2018.”