SALISBURY District Hospital is on high alert due to experiencing the highest level of demand on resources.

Routine operations have been postponed due to the rising demand which has seen the hospital trigger its most serious status, known as OPEL 4.

The hospital is urging people to "think carefully" about whether they need to visit the Emergency Department, saying it is only for "life threatening emergencies".

A spokesman said: "The hospital is currently very busy and while we have plans in place to deal with additional demands during the winter period we would like to remind people to think carefully and make the right decision about how they use local health services and get the advice that they need.

"Pharmacists are experts in many areas of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets.

"If people are not sure where to go, they can ring NHS 111, which is available 24/7.

"NHS 111 staff can provide advice and direct people to the best service for their needs.

"A&E departments and the ambulance service are for life threatening emergencies only such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped.”

Towards the end of last year, NHS England published a new system of Operational Pressure Escalation Levels (OPELs), which are numbered.

Health officials said the four-point scale was an attempt to ensure consistency when hospitals were under strain and needed extra help or for patients to be diverted.

OPEL 1 means services are working normally and OPEL 4 indicates that organisations are unable to deliver comprehensive care, with increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised.