wards were closed to new admissions and operations were cancelled at the last minute at Hereford County Hospital last week.

The wards were shut because of an outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting, which resulted in a lack of beds for those requiring surgery.

A total of 52 patients were told at short notice that their operations were cancelled. They are all expected to receive treatment within two weeks.

Two wards were closed to new admissions following the outbreak of the unpleasant norvirus which affected both patients and staff.

The situation was aggravated when the hospital faced a peak in emergency admissions, many involving older patients with chest problems.

This put the hospital under great pressure, with every available bed filled and patients having to be accommodated in the day case ward, resulting in the cancellation of some operations.

Lyn Kedward, manager of the emergency services care group said staff worked extremely hard to ensure patients needing emergency care were treated and were found beds.

The hospital was supported by Herefordshire Primary Care Trust and Powys Local Health Board, creating capacity in community hospitals and the Hillside Reablement Centre in Hereford. West Midland Ambulance Trust also helped to move patients.

"We would like to extend our thanks to all those involved," said Lyn Kenward.

Some of the pressure at the hospital was relieved this week with the reopening of the two wards.

Many hospitals, nursing and residential homes and schools and nurseries across the country are currently being affected by the same virus.

It causes a short-lived but unpleasant illness and recovery within a couple of days.

It is policy at Hereford County Hospital to close affected wards to new admissions to avoid the virus spreading to other parts of the hospital.