WIRRAL patients are being told to follow key advice issued this winter after thousands of planned operations across the UK could be delayed due to winter pressures.

Earlier this week, NHS England urged hospitals to defer planned operations and routine outpatient appointments until the end of the month in a bid to try and free up hospital staff and beds.

However Wirral University Teaching Hospital say unless patients have been contacted for rescheduled surgery, they should attend as normal.

Medical director Dr Susan Gilby said: “As is the situation with other hospitals regionally and nationally, our Trust is also facing increased pressure on its emergency and urgent care services.

“This time of the year is always busy for the NHS and here in Wirral our colleagues are working unbelievably hard to face that challenge head-on.

“It is normal practice for us to carry out fewer scheduled operations at this time of year as this forms part of our winter planning.

“Wirral University Teaching Hospital is reviewing daily its existing scheduled appointments and planned operations and will contact patients directly if these are to be rescheduled.

“If they have not been contacted they should please attend as normal.”

Ms Gilby continued: “For our patients who are medically well and no longer require an acute hospital bed, I would ask that relatives make timely plans to pick up your loved ones at the earliest of opportunities as other unwell patients may not be able to access an urgent hospital bed if they are occupied by patients who no longer need them.

“This is not just about our Emergency Department but the system as a whole and our health teams in Wirral are working together to face this challenge.

“People are advised that there are alternatives that may be more appropriate to A&E.

“Walk-in centres can help with minor injuries and illnesses with no appointment needed. Pharmacies can also offer a range of expert advice.

"If it is not an emergency, advice is also available 24 hours a day by calling 111.”

Earlier today, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had apologised to patients who have had operations delayed.

Mr Hunt told Sky News: “There are real pressures, no question about it.

“This is the busiest week of the year for the NHS.

“What is different this year compared to last year is that [last year] we had a lot of operations cancelled at the last minute, a lot of people were called up the day before their operation and told, ‘I’m sorry, it can’t go ahead’.

“And we recognise that it is better, if you are unfortunately going to have to cancel or postpone some operations, to do it in a planned way, and that’s why this year this independent panel has decided to take this decision.

“And that, I think, in the end, is better for people.

“Although if you are someone whose operation has been delayed I don’t belittle that for one moment, and indeed I apologise to everyone who that has happened to.”