Thousands of operations and procedures in England's National Health Service may be postponed until January 31 because of the influx of emergency cases.
Authorities have told hospitals to defer routine outpatient appointments and focus on emergencies, the BBC reports.
The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Taj Hassan, said: "In increasing numbers of departments, conditions are just terrible and staff are stretched to the limit just trying to deliver safe care".
Non-urgent treatments had already been cancelled until mid-January, but NHS England said yesterday that would now be extended to the end of the month.
"We expect these pressures to continue and there are early signs of increased flu prevalence".
Patients were urged to steer clear of critical care services, and to come to hospital only with life-threatening conditions.
They also say they're prioritising emergency patients and reviewing non-urgent activities, as well as opening up additional beds.
Its National Emergency Pressures Panel said the NHS had been under sustained pressure over the Christmas period with high levels of respiratory illness and limited capacity to deal with demand surges.
NHS England has also announced that sanctions for mixed-sex accomodation breaches will be temporarily lifted, with current NHS rules stating men and women should be treated on different wards.
"This means we are prioritising clinically urgent cases which will go ahead, but some non-urgent surgery will be postponed".
That is why we are making these further recommendations today.
Only seven NHS hospital trusts out of 153 have had average bed occupancy below 85 per cent this December - down from 17 at the same time past year.
A spokesperson for the East and North Herts NHS Trust told BOB fm: "The Trust very much appreciates everyone's patience and understanding in helping our staff to provide good quality care for patients, especially those arriving as emergencies".
"Local people can help by not attending A&E for conditions which they could wait and see their GP for".
Lib Dem health spokesman - and former health minister - Norman Lamb said the situation was "wholly predictable" and the government knew it was not putting "sufficient resources" into the NHS.