HOSPITALS are operating at their highest level of alert following a spike in the number of admissions last weekend.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust is running at “black” status as staff work to free beds.

Some routine operations have been postponed and non-essential meetings cancelled while teams deal with the pressure.

The recent heatwave is believed to be linked to the rise in demand, as many patients admitted they are suffering conditions often related to high temperatures.

These include dehydration, rehabilitation and respiratory and heart problems.

It is feared that the trust’s hospitals could come under even more pressure this week, with the hot weather expected to last until the weekend.

The start of the school holidays and the expected sharp rise in visitors to the coast during the coming weeks is also likely to increase demand.

The trust runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Royal Alexandra Hospital and Sussex Eye Hospital, in Brighton, and Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

More than 50 patients were ready to leave hospital but could not be discharged because there was no place available for them in a nursing or care home or arrangements had not been made to give them extra support at home. This is adding to the demand for beds and means patients in A&E are facing a long wait until a space can be found for them.

In the past six weeks, a total of 452 patients have waited up to 12 hours in A&E before moving on to a ward.

Hospital bosses said they hoped to be out of black status as soon as possible and were working with the city’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) and social care teams to speed the flow of patients.

This includes providing care for patients at home to avoid the need for them to be admitted to hospital in the first place.

Patients are being asked to do their bit by only visiting A&E in the case of a genuine emergency, such as serious injuries, illnesses and broken bones.

In a joint statement, the trust and CCG said: “Being situated in a popular seaside city, the A&E department at the Royal Sussex does often get busy during hot weather, which can occasionally lead to some patients having to wait longer than we would like to be treated.

“To help deal with this, the trust and the Brighton and Hove CCG have been working together, along with other health and social care organisations, to make sure the whole system is better prepared and more able to cope with increases in demand.”

Alternatives to A&E include local pharmacies, the Brighton Station walk-in centre, the minor injuries unit in Lewes, NHS 111 and out-of-hours GP services.

For more details about the other services that can be accessed, visit