SOUTHEND Hospital has been placed on black alert for the fourth time this year due to high levels of demand.

Hospital bosses are asking patients not to attend the hospital if their complaint could be dealt with by their GP or pharmacist.

Chief executive Sue Hardy said the black status has been in place since Monday following three days at red status.

She said: “We have seen over the last few months a high number of very ill patients attending the emergency department who require hospital care and have responded to that demand by escalating our alert status appropriately.”

“Attendances at our emergency department continue to increase with daily attendances remaining above average.

“There are a complex range of issues, including our ageing population, that contribute to this increase.

“Every patient requiring emergency admission via the emergency department has been admitted to the hospital.”