Cornwall’s health and care system is now operating at a 'critical incident level', it has been declared.
It was announced yesterday (December 20) that operational pressures are causing high numbers of ambulances waiting outside the Royal Cornwall Hospital, as well as a 'surge' in NHS cases.
The NHS says that planned industrial action is likely to have a further detrimental impact on the strain, but people can do their bit to help by making the right choice when it comes to their own care.
It also said it will be making use of grants to make beds available to people coming out of hospital where possible.
It comes as nurses walked out across the region yesterday (December 20) on the second day of strike action.
Today, ambulance workers are also striking in a dispute over pay and staffing levels.
A spokesperson from NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Integrated Care System said: "As a result of the acute pressure on all health and care services in Cornwall, we have escalated our operational level to a system critical incident.
"We are currently seeing a high number of ambulances waiting outside the Royal Cornwall Hospital and a surge in the number of patients in our emergency department and Cornwall's minor injury units, as well as a large number of patients in Cornwall's hospitals who are deemed medically fit for discharge but awaiting the right onward care.
"In addition, we anticipate that planned industrial action this week will have a further impact.
"Declaring an internal critical incident galvanises system partners to take additional and immediate steps to create capacity to aid the movement of patients through our hospitals and, consequently, release ambulances and their crews.
"People in our communities can help by making sure they make the right choice if they need urgent care, either by seeing a pharmacist, contacting their own GP, even if here on holiday, or by contacting NHS 111 online for advice on the most appropriate place for their needs.
"Families, friends and neighbours are urged to help us too by offering to support someone waiting for home care to leave hospital sooner and we would ask them to contact the ward directly if they can help in any way.
"Fast access one-off grants, to use towards expenses or equipment to help you get a relative or friend home from hospital sooner, are also available. If you could support someone in your home, or in their own home, with a little extra help, speak to the nurse in charge on the ward.
"Getting someone home a day or two sooner will mean we can free up a vital hospital bed for someone else in urgent need".