Hospitals were last night ordered to cancel thousands of operations to try to tackle a winter health crisis.
In an unprecedented move, NHS chiefs demanded radical action to free up beds and medical staff. Casualty units are under 'extreme and sustained' pressure with flu cases on the rise.
Up to 55,000 non-urgent operations will be postponed until February, along with thousands of outpatient appointments and scans.
Managers will be allowed to put patients on mixed-sex wards and consultants will be assigned to casualty units to