Bosses at the Royal Preston Hospital are urging people to stay away from A&E unless absolutely necessary.
The hospital is described as “extremely busy”, with reports of theatre recovery departments being opened up as makeshift wards, and the Day Case Unit being used for A&E admissions.
Trust bosses said the pressure is not unusual for the time of year and compares to other hospitals. But unions say the issue is forcing paramedics to wait in corridors and there is no room for manoeuvre should there be an epidemic outbreak.
A spokesman for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have not closed our doors to patients, we have never done this and we are not planning to do this now.
“Our hospitals are extremely busy, it is a similar story at most emergency departments across the country, and is normal at this time of year. We do have certain areas of our hospitals that we can open up as a ward when our normal level of beds has been exceeded, this isn’t uncommon.”
She added that the period just after Christmas and New Year is often very busy because some GP surgeries and pharmacies have been closed, meaning some people will wait to seek advice, and then they may get more ill.
Extra pressure has been felt at RPH since the closure of Chorley and South Ribble Hospital’s A&E department due to a lack of doctors.
Currently an Urgent Care Centre is open between 8am and 8pm at Chorley and the A&E department is set to reopen on January 18.
Steve Turner of the campaign group Save Chorley Hospital From Cuts and Privatisation, said: “It is chaos (at RPH), but what exacerbates it is people don’t know whether the Urgent Care Centre at Chorley is open or not. There is confusion in the community over where you can go. I’m also picking up feedback from the public that when you call 111, they’re giving out information to go to Preston.”
Tony Dunn, GMB representative for the North West Ambulance Service, said: “This level of pressure is normal for this time of year, but there’s always concern. This is additional pressure on top of everything else.
“Paramedics are stood in corridors, waiting. Our controllers are doing their best, but we’re not getting any help from the hospitals.
“This is expected pressure, so what planning is happening to deal with it? And what happens is there is an epidemic of something like swine flu?
“How is the hospital going to cope then?”
Advice on alternative medical attention include asking pharmacists, GPs or calling 111 for advice.