A NOROVIRUS scare has been blamed for hospital delays.

Staff were forced to isolate beds at Great Western Hospital at the start of the week, after a relative came in with norovirus symptoms.

Three bays on Teal Ward - a general medical ward - were shut following the scare.

Hospital chiefs have been in daily communication with counterparts at the council and the Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group to deal with the fall out.

The difficulty discharging patients from wards has led to a “busy” week in the emergency department – with longer than usual waits for patients.

At a meeting of the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s board of directors on Thursday, medical director Dr Guy Rooney told executives: “We had an outbreak of norovirus on the ward in the last couple of days. A patient’s relative came in who was symptomatic.

“One of the things we’re putting out through our communications is that if you’re feeling sick, don’t visit your relative.

“I’ve got a relative and he’s desperate to visit someone. I’m saying, ‘just don’t’.”

Known as the winter vomiting bug, norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhoea. In otherwise healthy people it can pass after a few days – but can present hospitals with major problems.

Dr Rooney told the press: “The last few days have been particularly busy for us, which has meant some less urgent patients attending the emergency department have had to wait longer than usual.

“Many people automatically turn to the hospital if they feel they cannot get a quick appointment elsewhere, but we’d ask they take a few minutes to think about whether that really is the best option for them."

The most recent ward closure comes after nurses were forced to isolate beds on Mercury Ward last month, following a norovirus scare.

Although cleanliness scores for the ward dipped below the target 95 per cent, GWH’s chief nurse said that the hygiene fall was not behind the outbreak.

Hillary Walker told GWH directors: “It doesn’t look like the dip in the cleanliness score on Mercury Ward was a cause."

Concerns over growing patient numbers have caused hospital bosses to order more cleaning rounds from facilities firm Carillion.

Chief nurse Ms Walker said: “In terms of our ward areas and emergency department, you will understand that on frequent occasions we are caring for more patients than they are designed to care for.

“This is making the job of the cleaners quite difficult.

"We are having to put in place extraordinary measures to make sure they can get in and clean outside of their normal arrangements."