A Hampshire hospital has launched a search for an army of nurses to help them battle norovirus this winter.

It is one of a number of initiatives being planned by medical chiefs, who are hoping to finally win the war against the contagious vomiting bug – before it even breaks out.

Southampton General Hospital has also opened a new ward where those struck down with the illness can be treated in isolation in a bid to limit it spreading among the sick.

The recruitment campaign is focused on finding a team of qualified nurses to fill the new roles.

Chief executive Fiona Dalton said it was just one measure to ensure the hospital was prepared for the worst the winter can throw at it.

She told the Daily Echo: “We are actively involved in recruiting additional staff, especially in the emergency department, and that should help this winter. Of course we have our hot spots across the hospital where we need more staff, and nationally every hospital is looking for qualified nurses at the moment. Our emergency department is a popular place to work and we want to keep it that way.”

Staff and visitors are also urged to take precautionary measures to ensure they are not contagious, including regular use of antibacterial hand gel, while workers are also subjected to occasional testing.

Ms Dalton said: “Six months ago we opened a new ward, which is all single rooms, that is really useful so if we had norovirus or any other kind of infection in the community we can bring patients into these single rooms and isolate the infection, so that should also help this winter.”

Winter is notoriously a time when resources are put under extreme pressure as the hospital struggles to cope with bugs such as the norovirus.

Last November ten wards had to be closed to new admissions and relatives of patients in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.

At the end of 2012, the cases of norovirus across the country had reached an all-time high, with more than a million people struck down.

Ms Dalton added the hospital would be working with partners throughout the city to contain winter problems and ensure it can deal with the worst cases.

Ms Dalton said: “Every year we work with our partners in social services and the rest of the city’s health services to be as prepared as we can for the winter.

“We work with the minor injuries unit at Royal South Hants Hospital and direct patients there when necessary, and we work with social services to ensure people who need some more support after leaving hospital can get that as soon as possible.”

Visitor restrictions are commonly enforced at the General in the winter months to limit the spread of the bug.

Wards are closed and essential visits only permitted at the discretion of the nurses in charge.