Health bosses have explained why a critical incident has been declared at a Norfolk hospital. 

The James Paget Hospital in Gorleston moved to critical incident level 2 status at 5pm on Monday, October 30, following high demand at the emergency department and "intense pressure" on bed capacity.  

The stress on the hospital comes days after Great Yarmouth was named the UK's current Covid hotspot, with more cases per head than any other area in England and Wales. 

A critical incident means the local NHS is facing extraordinary pressure and cannot function as normal. 

Eastern Daily Press: Bed capacity at the James Paget hospital was under 'intense pressure' on Monday, October 30.Bed capacity at the James Paget hospital was under 'intense pressure' on Monday, October 30. (Image: Archant � 2006)

A spokesperson for the James Paget said: "We are currently experiencing high demand at our hospital and, as such, would remind people to only attend Accident and Emergency if it is a genuine emergency." 

Patients with appointments or procedures at the hospital have been advised to attend as planned. 

An email sent to hospital staff on Monday, October 30, said the operational situation at the James Paget had “become more pressured” and they were moving from OPEL 4 to Critical Incident Level 2 status. 

"We are facing high demand in our emergency department, with long delays in patient handovers from our ambulance service colleagues," the email said. 

"At the same time, our bed capacity is also under intense pressure, and we are using our escalation areas. 

"As such, it is essential that our full focus is on alleviating our current operational situation both tonight and tomorrow - so please continue to cancel all non-essential meetings," the email added.  

Eastern Daily Press: Alex Stewart, chief executive at Healthwatch Norfolk. Alex Stewart, chief executive at Healthwatch Norfolk. (Image: Healthwatch Norfolk)

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said: "Critical incidents are only declared when absolutely necessary, and we understand the reasons for the hospital making the decision.

"This means some appointments and procedures will need to be cancelled during the duration of the incident.

"We would urge that these patients at the James Paget University Hospital are contacted in a timely way, and that options for further care and appointments are explained clearly to them," Mr Stewart added. 

People needing urgent medical care which is not an emergency have been asked to visit NHS 111 online or call NHS 111 for advice on how to get care at any time of day or night.  For non-urgent cases, speak to your GP practice or a pharmacist.

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The hospital said it is "working closely with our partners in the Norfolk and Waveney healthcare system to maximise capacity during this period of high demand".

Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, said: “I visited the James Paget today and the large number of patients being seen was obvious.  

“I would like to pay tribute to the staff who are working hard under difficult conditions."