HEALTH Secretary John Reid is being urged to sort out Worcestershire's shortage of hospital beds.

Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff has demanded action as GPs faced new pleas not to refer patients to Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

South Worcestershire Primary Care Trust has written to GPs ordering them to consider alternatives to non-emergency hospital referrals.

An advice notice tells GPs: "The county is currently experiencing a period of sustained pressure on in-patient beds."

The circular, which was issued earlier this month by the PCT's professional executive committee, stresses the hospital will continue to take emergency admissions.

But it adds: "We would be grateful if GPs could assure themselves all possible alternatives to admission have been considered."

Mr Luff has written to the Health Secretary after being contacted by GPs.

He said one had written to him to say the Royal had "in effect been closed for months".

In a letter to Dr Reid, Mr Luff said: "There is mounting concern among the medical community in Worcestershire that Worcestershire Royal Hospital is indeed far too small for its purpose."

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust spokesman, Richard Haynes, said the Royal was "never closed".

"We always take people who need acute care," he said. "As far as we are concerned the number of acute beds we have is appropriate for acute admissions.

"But NHS organisations across the county need to work together to prevent patients coming in unnecessarily."