NINE operations have been cancelled after a “major incident” was declared at Colchester General Hospital.

Extra doctors, nurses and support staff were drafted in after several days of high demand for beds.

A major incident, called when hospitals find themselves under serious pressure, was declared by Colchester hospitals trust on Sunday at 11.30am.

The warning was lifted on Sunday night.

However, nine patients were told their routine non-emergency operations, due on Monday had been postponed.

They will receive new dates within 28 days.

A trust spokesman apologised to those affected and said January was traditionally a hospital’s busiest time of the year.

He said: “No one likes to be in hospital over Christmas and elective operations are reduced, which means by the time Christmas comes, hospitals like ours have many free beds.

“But these then start to fill up and it is common to experience extreme pressure in early January. It is no different here.”

The spokesman said there was not one major cause of the alert, although mounting pressure and staff sickness were factors.

Trust bosses postponed some training sessions to enable staff to join the front line.

The spokesman said: “We would like to assure the public and patients that our accident and emergency department, while busy, is continuing to function fully. We are here and ready for anyone who needs the services of an acute hospital trust.”

Amajor incident was also declared on Monday, January 6, at 4.30pm. The status was removed later that evening.

A similar incident was also called at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital last Wednesday after 42 A&E patients were left waiting on trolleys for treatment.