OUTBREAKS of flu and Norovirus are placing strain on the borough's "stretched" health services, bosses have warned.

Ward closures at Wigan Infirmary have been coupled with flare-ups of viral infections in care and residential homes in recent weeks.

Officers said partnership working between the borough’s NHS organisations continues to help divert patients away from hospital, but winter pressures are continuing to bite.

Caroline Kurzeja, CCG chief officer, said the system "feels very tense and stretched at the moment".

Speaking at a meeting of the town hall’s health and wellbeing board, she said: “A significant number of patients that would have gone directly into hospital have been treated at home and that is a direct result of our system working together.

“Not withstanding that, and not just because there’s white stuff on the roads today, our system is incredibly stretched.”

At a previous meeting board members had been told of the progress of the new Community Response Team that visits patients who have called 999 but do not require hospital treatment.

It had helped prevent almost 1,000 trips to A&E up to December, and initiatives such as this were helping to ease pressure, the latest meeting was told.

But, the outbreaks of flu, sickness and diarrhoea across the borough – affecting both patients and staff – were adding to the winter toll.

Chris Knights, hospital trust project director, said ward closures were testing the service’s resilience.

And Dr Tim Dalton, chair of the CCG, asked for residents to consider how they access the health services.

He said: “There is clear evidence that here in Wigan borough we are working together and using the shared governance and showing success.

“But we recognise that problems remain and there are pressures on the acute system generally and the emergency departments specifically.

“We would like our population, our residents, to look after themselves, family and friends and keep themselves warm in this cold spell and seek help when necessary through appropriate means.”