More than 70 patients had to be treated in a hospital car park as staff struggled to cope with demand.
Bosses say they have been so overwhelmed by people suffering from sickness bugs that paramedics were forced to care for 999 patients as they waited in ambulances.
Ambulances were left queuing outside several hospitals in north Manchester – including Pennine Acute Trust’s North Manchester General, Royal Oldham, Rochdale Infirmary and Fairfield Hospital in Bury – as the norovirus crisis hit the region.
At the height of the problems, Tameside Hospital’s A&E unit was so overwhelmed that, on December 21, 73 people were cared for in the car park for more than half an hour.
Problems continued at the hospital, with 19 ambulances left waiting to drop off patients between December 28-30.
Figures also show that nine ambulances had to wait to drop off patients at Tameside Hospital between December 22 and 27.
Medics also struggled to find space for everyone who needed to be admitted – with every one of the 485 beds at Tameside Hospital full on December 30.
A spokeswoman for Tameside Hospital said: “Like many other hospitals across the country, we have experienced unusually high levels of patients requiring hospital treatment.
“Many of our patients have been seriously ill arriving at the hospital by ambulance. This increased demand from our local population was not linked to any specific issues, such as norovirus, but to a wide variety of complex health problems.
“The hospital is working with Tameside Clinical Commissioning Group and Social Services to look at the underlying issues.”
Ambulances were also left queueing at Pennine Acute Trust Hospitals, which covers North Manchester General, the Royal Oldham, Rochdale Infirmary and Fairfield Hospital in Bury.
Figures, which have just been released by the department of health, show 135 ambulances were left queuing at Greater Manchester hospitals between December 28 and 30, 54 between December 22 to 27 and 238 on December 21.
On December 30, there were 180 beds closed across Greater Manchester due to diarrhoea and vomiting bugs, including norovirus.
The figures show that Royal Bolton Hospital had just 19 beds available on December 30.
And more than 100 beds – a fifth of all those available – had to be closed off at North Manchester General because of norovirus and other sickness bugs. The hospital restricted also visiting over this period but visiting hours have now returned to normal.
The figures also show that 72 ambulances had to wait more than half an hour at Wythenshawe Hospital. There were also 27 beds affected at Wythenshawe and 37 at Central Manchester Hospitals.
A spokesman from University Hospitals of South Manchester, which runs Wythenshawe Hospital, said : “We can confirm that on Friday December 21, we reported 72 cases of ambulances waiting more than 30 minutes to hand over patients to our staff in A&E. This was a reflection of general pressures in our A&E department and the wider Manchester community who also reported increased numbers.
“This was a particularly challenging 24 hours for UHSM because of increased numbers of surgical emergencies and orthopaedic trauma admissions, but our staff worked hard to recover the situation and maintain a high quality of care.”
Bob Williams, acting chief executive at North West Ambulance Service, said: “This winter has been an extremely busy time for the whole of the NHS. The system is under increasing pressure due to a number of factors such as increases in norovirus, flu and children’s respiratory problems.
“On New Year’s Day alone, the ambulance service in Greater Manchester received one 999 call every 10 seconds.
“We always expect a high increase in demand during this time, and this was planned for by increasing resources which included 13 rapid response vehicles, more than 50 extra emergency ambulances and extra staff within the trust’s emergency operation centres.
“At particular times through the festive period, when activity levels were exceptionally high, we did experience some surges of demand resulting in ambulances waiting to discharge patients at hospitals.
“For this reason, we are working extremely hard across the NHS in Greater Manchester to look at ways in which we can manage these surges in demand.
“This includes the introduction of rapid handover of patients in A&E, alternative provision to treat minor injuries and the staggering of 999 referrals made by healthcare professionals. There is variation across hospitals in terms of progress with these initiatives.
“With activity rising as it is, we would urge the public to think carefully about how they use the 999 and A&E services locally to ensure that those services are available for those members of the public who need us most.”