UNDER-PRESSURE North-East hospitals are opening up extra winter wards to cope with an influx of sick and injured patients.

Bosses at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the University Hospital of North Tees have both decided to open up more beds to cope with higher than usual admissions.

Meanwhile, managers at Darlington Memorial Hospital and the University Hospital of North Durham say that they are very busy but coping Fuelled by the freezing temperatures, hospitals in the region have seen a rise in admissions in the last few days.

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Things got so hectic at James Cook that queues of ambulances built up while doctors and nurses were trying to find extra beds.

Adrian Clements, clinical director of A&E at the South Tees Hospital Trust - which runs James Cook and the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton - said: We have been particularly busy over the weekend and Monday and this does place the department - and the wider organisation - under pressure.

"A lot of the patients we are seeing are the frail elderly and vulnerable adults who have either had injuries, such as falls on the ice, or who have complex illnesses. As a consequence, at times, ambulance queues did develop."

He said the trust is opening a 30 bedded winter ward and investing in extra phlebotomists who can take blood samples to free up junior medical staff time.

Dr Clements said the trust is also bidding for extra funds to increase the number of senior doctors and nurses.

The trust is also working with the wider NHS to find better ways to support people in their own homes and prevent hospital admissions.

A spokeswoman for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that they are in the process of opening up a previously mothballed winter ward.