A&E waiting times figures at Hereford County hospital in December were the worst in five years, according to NHS analysis.

Approaching 2,000 patients were left more than four hours before being dealt with.

Almost a third of patients were not seen within four hours, when the target for the hospital is to see a minimum of 95%.

The news comes as medical professionals warn services across the country are at breaking point.

NHS statistics show that patients at Wye Valley Trust waited longer than four hours on 1,822 occasions in December – 32.7% of all attendances.

This was the worst performance for that month since 2015, the earliest period for which data is available.

The vast majority of NHS A&E departments across England fell short of the 95% target in December.

Nationally, just 79.8% of patients were seen within four hours – the worst performance for any month since records began in 2010.

A&E departments dealt with 2.2 million visits in December – a 6.5% rise on the same month the previous year.

A spokesperson for the Wye Valley Trust said: “We have seen a significant increase in the numbers of patients requiring emergency care, those brought to A&E by ambulance, and an increase in the number of patients being admitted to our hospitals.

"Our staff are working very hard to ensure that patients are treated as quickly as possible. However, there are times when patients may need to be wait longer to be seen and treated whilst we prioritise those in most clinical need.

“The safety of patients is our priority and we have robust multi-agency winter plans in place, which we are following, to enable us to maintain services and continue to provide safe care for our patients.

“We’re urging the public to use alternative NHS services, where appropriate for non-life threatening illness or injuries, including their local pharmacy, GP services, or call NHS 111 for medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

"Following the introduction of the acutemedical unit in December 2018, the trust has made significant improvements in the way it admits and discharges patients on the same day.

"By preventing unnecessary admission to hospital the trust has reduced the demand on its bed base.  There is now a higher proportion of patients admitted and discharged on the same day and the trust’s overall length of stay for patients admitted has reduced."

"We review all inpatients on a daily basis to reduce their length of stay."

The trust added, as background information, the following:

  • Prior to October 2019, the highest number of ambulance conveyances in a month was 1,969 (December 2018), which has since risen to 2,146 in December 2019.  In the last three months, our ambulance conveyances have risen by approximately 10 per cent compared with last year.
  • These ambulance-borne patients tend to be very sick and therefore need urgent treatment. This inevitably impacts the speed at which other, less urgent patients, can be seen.
  • 38,552 of attendances of seriously ill patients through 2019. That is an increase of 5,335 over 2018, which equates to an additional 444 per month.
  • To give some context, for overall attendances at A&E there has been a 8.9 per cent year-on-year growth.
  • We have managed this extra demand both by creating more capacity and redesigning the emergency care pathways, which means that more patients are treated with same day emergency care and reduced length of stay by community services redesign. We opened a new 24-bed acute medical unit just over 12 months ago, which allows us to see and treat patients more quickly.  The trust has significantly improved its performance regarding admitting patients within four hours of their arrival as 3,111 more attendances were admitted into acute beds within the measure in 2019 than 2018.
  • Further to this, we have announced that £23.6 million funding has been earmarked for the planned hutted ward replacement project, which will help to ease pressure on bed capacity when the new wards open in 2020, an additional 18-bed capacity is being built into the planning.