Alarming pressure on the NHS has forced Burton's Queen's Hospital bosses to delay patients' operations.

The Belvedere Road facility is one of many UK hospitals facing a massive seasonal strain on services.

Health chiefs have blamed increasing cases of flu and respiratory illness, fewer available beds and A&E patients turning up with severe ailments.

On Tuesday, January 2, NHS England issued official advice to hospitals on how to handle what some commentators have dubbed a "crisis".

That same day, eight operations at Queen's were rearranged to make way for those needing urgent treatment.

A Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: "The trust has well-established and detailed plans to help cope with the expected increases in demand over the festive and new year period.

"The trust has focused on treating emergency patients who require our immediate care, and day-case patients who can be treated safely without the need for a hospital bed.

"This has allowed the trust to minimise the need for cancellations.

"Demand has been high for our urgent care services and it has been necessary for the trust to rearrange a very small number of elective operations, so that patients requiring emergency treatment can be prioritised.

"The trust endeavours to ensure that patients are rescheduled for their appointments as soon as possible and that their inconvenience is kept to a minimum."

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NHS England's advice to hospitals includes pushing back all non-urgent inpatient elective care until the end of the month, with only cancer operations and time-critical procedures continuing as planned.

Trusts have been advised to defer all outpatient appointments and maximise use of other services, like GPs clinics and care in ambulances, to help A&E departments cope.

The public are also being urged to play their part by calling 111 for advice in non-emergencies.

Royal Derby Hospital, which treats South Derbyshire patients, has asked people to stay away if they are not in a genuine emergency.

Its A&E department has seen a 6.7 per cent increase in admissions compared to last year.

A spokesman said: "Our hospitals are exceptionally busy and we are asking people to use other services if it's not a genuine emergency.

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"In line with national recommendations, we had already made plans to stop planned operations.

"We are prioritising emergency surgery and cancer operations.

"We are admitting more than 100 acutely unwell patients every day."

Speaking on Tuesday, NHS National Emergency Pressures Panel chairman Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said: "I want to thank NHS staff who have worked incredibly hard under sustained pressure to take care of patients over the Christmas.

"We expect these pressures to continue and there are early signs of increased flu prevalence.

"The NHS needs to take further action to increase capacity and minimise disruptive last minute cancellations.

"That is why we are making these further recommendations today."

Royal Derby Hospital will be one of the hospitals affected by the merger
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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has apologised to patients in England, where tens of thousands of operations have been postponed this month.

Mr Hunt said it was "absolutely not what I want", but was needed given the pressure hospitals were under in "the busiest week of the year for the NHS."

He also said the whole country was grateful for the work NHS staff were putting in, working "incredibly long hours through the night, beyond the call of duty in every possible way".