People should continue to avoid the accident and emergency of unit at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital unless they absolutely have to be there, managers said yesterday.
Although demand is reported to have eased in recent days, officials say there is still a substantial call for services at the Gayton Road site.
Karen Croker, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said yesterday: “The spike in demand for beds has eased over the weekend but the hospital still remains under significant pressure.
“We continue to work with our partners in health and social care to manage this demand, but we are also appealing to the public for their help by only visiting A&E if absolutely necessary.
“We would firstly encourage people to visit the Choose Me and Not A&E website, www.choosemenotaande.co.uk, or dial NHS 111 before setting out.”
The hospital issued an initial appeal for people to stay away from the A&E unit on Wednesday, because of high demand.
At that stage, all of West Norfolk’s 57 escalation beds for high patient demand were in use.
Then, on Friday afternoon, officials asked visitors to avoid going to the hospital over the weekend in order to help them manage the high levels of demand.
Tim Petterson, the trust’s medical director, said at that point: “At this time I cannot express strongly enough the importance for the public to choose the appropriate care options.
“We would never deter anyone from seeking medical treatment but do ask people to consider other options for minor ailments.
“Patient safety of course remains our top priority and our staff continue to make all efforts to ensure the continued smooth operation of our hospital during this exceptionally busy period.”
The continuing pressure on the hospital comes only days after managers revealed they expected to ask the Department of Health for more than £20 million of loans in the current financial year.
The trust says its financial problems, which are currently forecast to result in an end of year budget deficit of more than £18 million, have been worsened by the high pressure on its services this winter.
They say escalation beds of the type opened last week are not funded, but necessary to provide safe patient care.
But local health campaigner Dan O’Connor said the current crisis demonstrates the urgent need for greater investment in the NHS.
He described the need for QEH bosses to seek government loans as “utterly ludicrous.”
Although the government says it is providing extra funding for the service, Mr O’Connor insisted ministers were to blame for the QEH’s current problems.
He said: “The government has, in the first place, failed to provide the hospital with the funding that it needs to meet patient needs.
“What effect does this funding farce have on the morale of QEH staff who struggle diligently and constantly, to provide us with good hospital care?”