A PATIENT watchdog has warned cancelling hospital operations and appointments to ease pressures will not cure the problem.

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove has spoken out as the county’s main hospital trusts face unprecedented pressures.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals, Western Sussex Hospitals and East Sussex Healthcare NHS trusts are all operating at full capacity while dealing with a surge in demand from patients.

Nationally, the Department of Health has given trusts permission to suspend non-urgent operations and appointments until at least the end of the month.

Hospitals are asking people not to call to check.

If they do not hear anything, they should assume their appointment is going ahead.

Healthwatch chairwoman Frances McCabe said: “Bad weather, flu and chest infections are not a blip, they happen every year.

“Each winter, we seem to have a ‘crisis’ in the NHS.

“A&E is inundated with patients, hospital beds are unavailable and people cannot be discharged home because of insufficient community health and social services.

“Furthermore, this moratorium on patient appointments, does not cure the problem.

“It simply pushes the problem into the future, when most hospital are already struggling to keep up with offering appointments within 18 weeks from a GP referral.

“All across the UK, including the Brighton and Hove area, managers and staff have already been working to capacity to deal with the anticipated surge of activity.

“That despite their best efforts, problems persist and appear to get worse year on year, indicates more resources are needed, including for social care.

“This stop/go approach is unacceptable and a sustainable national plan is needed.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised to patients affected by the current crisis.