A hospital leader has urged people not to attend A&E unless they need to after seeing “significant increased pressure”.
Some patients had operations cancelled at short notice last week when North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust escalated to the second highest level of activity.
The Trust was so busy at one point it made the decision to escalate to the operational level NEEP 5.
The NEEP (North East Escalation Plan) reflects how busy the trust is and goes from one up to six.
Julie Gillon, deputy chief executive and chief operating officer for the Trust, said: “Due to significant increased pressures across the trust a decision was made to escalate to NEEP level 5 on Tuesday morning.
“While we continue to be under significant operational pressure which has necessitated the management of additional and flexible capacity within the organisation, we have now de-escalated to NEEP level 4.”
Our staff need to concentrate on very sick and injured people whose health needs are our priority at this timeJulie Gillon, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust
Ms Gillon said the Trust starts planning for winter very early to be able to deal with the expected rise in demand.
Many patients being admitted are said to have complex illnesses and Ms Gillon said their priority is to look after the seriously ill or injured.
She added: “Demand continues to be extremely high, but what we’re experiencing is reflected in the national picture. Our priority has to be to deliver safe care to patients.
“Unfortunately a very small number of planned non-urgent operations were cancelled due to the pressures. No urgent or cancer procedures have been cancelled.
“All patients were given notice and their operations will be rescheduled at the earliest possible date.
“While the decision to cancel any operation is not taken lightly and we are very sorry to those patients who are affected by this.”
Regarding the correct use of A&E, Ms Gillon said: “We would also like to take this opportunity to remind people that accident and emergency is for serious illnesses and injuries.
“Having things at home so you can take care of minor illnesses or injuries yourself means the doctors and nurses can concentrate on looking after the seriously ill or injured.
“It’s useful to have a well-stocked medicine and first aid cabinet at home but if you have a minor illness, make an appointment to see your GP, visit a walk-in centre or talk to your local pharmacist.
“Our staff need to concentrate on very sick and injured people whose health needs are our priority at this time.”
She praised staff for their hard work at both hospital sites.