BED blocking and a drop in standards at the Isle of Wight's only hospital has been seen as a result of the Island's care crisis.

Pressure has continued to mount for St Mary's Hospital and its staff since June, with top bosses saying patient levels were 'very congested and very concerning'.

There's an average of 55 patients in St Mary's who do not need to be there but there is no care available to safely discharge them.

It has been revealed there are more than 300 job vacancies in the care sector on the Isle of Wight - nearly eight per cent of the workforce.

The situation has been called a 'critical risk' for the hospital by the Isle of Wight NHS Trust's chief operating officer Joe Smyth, as it causes a lack of beds for those needing to be admitted and increased wait times in the emergency department.

Overcrowding, patients being nursed out of bays and people being accommodated overnight in the emergency department as they wait for a bed to become available have all been reported recently to the trust board.

Patient levels are remaining steady, with more than 5,000 people going to the emergency departments each month, but performance levels are declining.

Between August and October, the number of patients seen and discharged or admitted in four hours has fallen from 81.4 per cent to 76.5 per cent.

At today's (Thursday) meeting, Mr Smyth said staff had been outstanding and could not be working harder to manage demand.

He asked Islanders to use other avenues for support, like 111 or GPs, unless it was a real emergency.

He apologised for the wait's people may experience if they come to the emergency department but asked for their patience and an understanding of the pressure the hospital is under.

Dr Lesley Stevens, the trust's community director, said there seemed to be a disconnect between health settings and the outside world, as the outside world 'had gone back to normal.'

She asked Islanders to continue to protect the NHS by following Covid guidance.

Pressures will also be put on the hospital as the Island enters winter, with increases in flu and other illnesses and changes made to Covid pathway's in the hospital.

Should additional bed capacity be needed at short notice a contingency plan has been approved to open an extra ward, which could provide either 15 or 28 beds.

Darren Cattell, the trust's deputy chief executive, said winter is not going to be straightforward or easy.