Lister Hospital in Stevenage is re-deploying staff from their usual roles to assist with a period of ‘extreme pressure’ on its wards.

According to an anonymous source, a number of non-clinical staff have been deployed as runners, being asked to get medication from the pharmacy to take to wards due to a shortage of clinical staff and the high numbers of sick patients afflicted with winter viruses.

Other employees have been doing admin that would normally be done by ward staff.

Staff have also been warned they may be asked to work 12-hour shifts and weekends.

However hospital bosses insist this is a routine procedure for difficult periods.

A source who asked to remain anonymous, told this paper: “It seems the hospital bosses have panicked.

“Some wards are saying they don’t need help – but that could be professional pride. The only conclusion I can draw at this moment is that the senior hospital management do not have a grip on what is going on.

“This is not good for patient care, efficiency and financial management.”

The source claims hospital’s volunteers are also being redeployed from their normal roles to help out with non-clinical jobs to help get patients discharged quicker.

A spokesperson East and North Herts NHS Trust which runs the Lister, said: “Part of the Trust’s detailed winter preparation plans has been to ensure that staff are deployed to the areas of most need, especially where that releases clinical staff from administrative duties to focus solely on caring for their patients.

“This is absolutely standard procedure, with the aim of supporting our clinical teams in continuing to provide the best possible care for their patients.”

In a statement yesterday the NHS trust asked people not to go to A&E unless it is a “life or limb-threatening” emergency, or unless they have been advised to go there by a healthcare professional.

Across the country, the NHS is under similar pressure leading NHS England to order hospitals to postpone routine appointments and surgery to focus on urgent cases.

The NHS trust issued a statement saying: “We are prioritising the welfare of the very sickest patients who need immediate life-saving care, and have brought in all available additional staff to help, in line with locally agreed winter plans.

“Anyone coming to Lister’s emergency department with a minor illness or injury is very likely to face a very long wait.

“Please use alternative services and keep A&E for those who are gravely ill or injured.”

People who have an urgent need for medical advice have three options:

• Speak to a local pharmacist; many pharmacies have private consulting rooms

• Call NHS 111 – a free 24/7 service accessible from any phone, where you can get advice over the phone from a range of clinicians

• Consult the online NHS Choices website –