BARNSLEY Hospital have issued a rare 'black alert' as hundreds of patients swamp its accident and emergency department.

The NHS facility in South Yorkshire is struggling to keep up with the demand for beds, just days after top doctors warned of mounting pressure due to record numbers of admissions.

Internal emails seen by The Independent show the institute was forced to declare OPEL 4 status – operational pressures escalation level – on Tuesday amid the shortage.

The system is used by the NHS to assess the stress, demand and pressure a hospital is under, with OPEL 4, also known as the 'black alert', being the highest.

It translates to when a hospital is "struggling or unable to deliver comprehensive care" and patient safety is at risk – and Barnsley medics were warned by bosses they faced a "pretty challenging" shortfall in beds.

The email revealed that over 40 patients were in the emergency department and 15 of those were waiting for a bed.

By the evening, the figures had almost doubled – with 80 patients in the department and 20 waiting for a bed.

But rather than being flooded by coronavirus patients, it seems the delay in people missing out on medical treatment in lockdown is finally catching up on the healthcare system, as it is A&E sickness causing the congestion, The Independent reports.

The emails also showed that the hospital's acute medical unit was full on Tuesday morning, with 12 patients waiting for a bed while only two were available.

Staff were told later in the day that the OPEL 4 status had been declared because they were experiencing "severe pressures due to the flow of emergency patients into and through the hospital."

They were urged to "do everything possible" to free up beds, such as early reviews of all inpatients and "encouraging medical teams to facilitate discharge".

It comes after hospital trusts across the country have been inundated with record numbers of patients

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