MILTON Keynes Hospital was officially at breaking point on Black Alert this week due to a crippling shortage of bed space.
The status indicates the highest possible level of crisis, and is one step up from the serious red alert.
Hospital bosses say the problem stems from an unusually high number of very ill patients coming in to A&E needing emergency surgery or treatment.
Staff are frantically trying to find a bed for them by sending existing patients home early when possible.
They are also cancelling many non-emergency elective surgeries, some of which have been booked for months.
But, if the situation worsens, some emergency patients could face being diverted to hospitals elsewhere in the country.
A spokesman said: “We don’t really know why we are suddenly so busy.
“Some of it is due to the usual winter illnesses but the biggest factor is a rise in the amount of people coming in through the doors needing emergency surgery.
“There does not seem to be a reason for this increase. It is just a nasty coincidence that it is all happening at once.”
Earlier this year the hospital reduced its bed space by closing two entire wards.
Ward 17 housed trauma and orthopaedic patients, while Ward 18 dealt with general male surgery cases.
But bosses are adamant that these closures have not contributed to the Black Alert status.
“We compensated for the loss of these wards by reducing the average length of stay for patients in hospital,” said the spokesman.
Black Alert is still rare in hospitals and usually caused by a major outbreak of flu or similar contagious virus sweeping the area.
The status is decided each morning and then reviewed at two hourly intervals during the day.
Senior management teams are holding regular meetings to monitor the bed space available.
Consultants are also paying extra visits to patients to assess if they can be discharged.