Eight members of staff at Hampstead's Royal Free Hospital were taken ill yesterday (Wednesday) and the A&E closed to ambulance admissions because of fumes.

At around 4pm hospital workers noticed what a spokeswoman for the hospital called 'an unusual smell' in the accident and emergency unit. The London Fire Brigade was called and the area cordoned off.

The eight hospital staff were treated, but it is not known what the smell was. Contrary to some reports, the A&E department was not evacuated and was admitting walk-in casualties, but ambulances were directed to other hospitals in north London.

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: "We were called at 4.24pm to a smell of fumes at the hospital and the fire brigade cordoned off parts of the building. It was declared safe by fire crews and scientific advisers."

London Ambulance Service sent two ambulances and a hazardous area response team, but did not treat anybody.

By 12.30am this morning (Thursday) the hospital was fully operational again.