HOSPITALS have been placed on the highest level of alert as they work to control demand from patients and a shortage of beds.

Patients visiting accident and emergency departments at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath who need to be admitted are facing long waits for a bed to be found.

Ambulance crews have also been delayed in handing patients over to under-pressure hospital staff who are too busy to deal with them.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has been on black alert all this week in a bid to improve the flow of patients, which has led to some operations being cancelled.

The trust is working with other local NHS and council authorities to ease the pressure.

A major part of the problem are bed-blocking patients who are ready to be discharged but have to wait until a nursing or community bed is found for them or a package of care in their own homes is arranged.

A trust spokesman said: “ Our hospitals are currently exceptionally busy, particularly in our A&E departments and we do urge people to consider alternative services, such as calling NHS 111, for minor illnesses and injuries.

“Our aim is always to treat patients arriving in our emergency departments as quickly as possible but unfortunately when the hospital is very busy there are times when patients have to wait longer than we would like.

“We are making improvements across the trust to help with the flow of patients throughout our hospitals but we know we have more to do to provide the service we would like.

“We are also working with our partners to improve the discharge of patients who no longer need an acute hospital bed as this has an impact on how quickly we can admit patients from our emergency departments.”

Other work also included opening up extra beds in Newhaven for patients needing extra support before being discharged to ease pressures on the Royal Sussex over the winter months.

However these have since been closed in order to focus on providing more services in the community instead.

The trust is currently waiting for the publication of what is expected to be a critical Care Quality Commission report.

It follows an inspection which was held earlier this year.