SOUTHEND Hospital may have to pause elective surgery as winter pressures mount on the service, the hospital's medial director has claimed in an internal email.

In an email sent out on Thursday the hospital’s medical director Stuart Harris told staff an ambulance waited for more than six hours to offload a patient the night before, the BBC has reported.

Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, has since confirmed to the BBC no elective procedures are stopping at the moment.

The incident occurred on the same day the Care Quality Commission published a report rating the hospital ‘requires improvement’.

Elective surgery procedures are operations that patients need, but don't have to be done immediately.

In the email seen by the BBC, Dr Harris told staff winter pressures meant "yet again we are in a dire position, which is putting the safety of patients who use our services at real risk".

The email stated six ambulances were also “cohorting" – the process of assessing a patient recently delivered to hospital by ambulance and the severity of their injuries – in the Paediatric Emergency Department, with adult patients grouped together in the waiting area with ambulance crews.

Dr Harris said: "This was a very scary situation for both the patients and the staff.

"I fear if we don't turn this around we will have to stop all elective activity."

The hospital has since said it has no plans to cancel operations and has urged people to call NHS 111 before coming to A&E unless they are in an "urgent or life-threatening" situation.