Services are being reduced and medics focusing on patients “with the most needs”, says the chief medical officer at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
Steep rises in Covid-19, flu, Strep A and other winter illnesses are causing long waits at the hospital said chief medical officer Adrian Harris.
He urged people to “think very carefully” before going to hospital.
“Sadly how we will cope is by having to reduce the suite of services that we offer,” he said.
“We will have to focus as we do in any period of crisis on our patients with the most needs,” he said.
He added that longer waits were “regrettable”, but “the number of patients turning up and the complexity or severity of the illnesses or injuries” made it unavoidable.
“I’d ask the public to think very carefully when they attend whether it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Mark Hamilton, chief medical officer at the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, advised people to use pharmacies, GPs or the NHS advice line, unless it was for a life-threatening condition.
“Every person that uses those services helps us to treat somebody else in the Emergency Department,” he said.
“It’s particularly difficult at the moment.
“Everything that we can do to try and treat the right patients by using other services means that it’s much easier for people to do their jobs.”