SOUTHEND Hospital has run out of beds for new admissions after going into “black alert”.

Due to a higher than usual number of acutely ill patients requiring a hospital bed, the hospital is urging people to stay away from A&E unless they are seriously unwell or critically injured.

Choking, chest pain, blacking out, blood loss and fractures are all considered emergencies and people with those conditions should go straight to hospital.

Sue Hardy, acting chief executive at Southend Hospital, said: “The health system in Essex is under significant pressure with lots of illness in the community. The emergency department is extremely busy and patients are being warned that those attending with ‘non-urgent’ conditions will wait much longer than usual as patients are prioritised according to how unwell they are.

“We would like to remind anyone who is unsure of the best course of action to always ring NHS 111 for health advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

If you need more than telephone advice when your GP is closed, then you can avoid several hours’ wait in the emergency department by telephoning NHS 111 for an appointment with your GP’s out-of-hours service which runs from 6.30pm until 8am Monday to Friday and all day at weekends and Bank Holidays.

Pharmacists can also give advice and over-the-counter remedies for diarrhoea, minor infections, headaches, coughs and colds, as well as bandages and supports for twists and sprains.

The hospital also wants more people to use St Luke’s Walk-in Centre, in Pantile Avenue, which is open at weekends and Bank Holidays from 8am to 8pm.

Southend Medical Centre, at 50-52 London Road, Southend, is providing extended access to Southend residents over the weekend, on Saturday from 8am until 1pm and Sunday from 1pm until 6pm. Patients can walk-in during these times.

Dr Roger Gardiner, lead clinician for NHS 111 and out of hours services in south Essex, added: “NHS 111 is available around the clock if you need urgent medical help that is not an emergency. You will speak to highly trained call handlers, supported by experienced nurses or paramedics who will clinically assess you, provide appropriate advice or refer you to the most appropriate NHS service.”