AMBULANCES were diverted to other hospitals and admissions to the acute medical unit at Russells Hall Hospital temporarily halted on Monday night due to rising numbers of inpatients with coronavirus and staff affected by the virus.

Hospital chiefs said they had to stop new admissions to the unit, which supports the emergency department, to undertake a deep clean - and West Midlands Ambulance Service confirmed 15 of its ambulances were diverted to other hospitals due to turnaround delays at Russells Hall.

The news came to light after the family of a patient who was diverted to Walsall Manor Hospital got in touch.

A relative, who asked not to be named, said: "I was shocked they took him from Russells Hall to Walsall. In March they were saying hospitals were going to be over run and now we’re in the deep end of it – they’re not disclosing it. This is getting a bit scary."

Diane Wake, chief executive at the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust which runs Russells Hall, said all planned and emergency care continued and she stressed: "At no stage was our emergency department or intensive care unit closed."

But she added: "We have an increasing number of Covid-19 positive patients in Dudley borough and we are seeing an increase in both inpatients and staff who are affected. We had to stop new admissions to our acute medical unit in order to have space to undertake deep cleaning.

"This unit supports our emergency department and we had to have some ambulances diverted to other local hospitals while we managed demand."

West Midlands Ambulance Service said the level of demand at each hospital is monitored so potential delays can be highlighted early and resolved and a spokesman for the ambulance service said: "Where appropriate, we also use intelligent conveyancing to divert ambulances to alternative hospitals, so that patients can be seen more quickly. Not only is this better for the patient, it ensures ambulances are free to respond to the next 999 call, which protects lives.

“On Monday, Russells Hall Hospital did experience turnaround delays and as a result 15 ambulances were diverted to other hospitals."

According to figures published by NHS England there were 28 patients in hospital at Russells Hall with coronavirus including four on ventilators on Monday (October 19) and the following day (Tuesday October 20) there were 34 inpatients with Covid-19 - including five on ventilators.

Bal Kaur, director of public health at Dudley Council, said: “We have reached a crucial point in our fight against coronavirus. Cases in the borough continue to rise and are much higher than where we want them to be. This inevitably means we’re seeing more coronavirus related hospital admissions and once again our NHS services are facing immense pressure as we head towards the winter months.

“I urge residents to help us in our fight against this disease and continue to follow the rules."