THE Royal Bolton’s A&E department was “overwhelmed” during the Easter weekend — putting a dampener on their “brilliant” annual performance.

Health chiefs admitted they “could have done better” to cope with the influx of emergency attendances in April, which saw 520 patients breach the four-hour waiting target.

The “disappointing” results come less than a month since the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust announced that the A&E department was ranked second best in the North West and fourth in the country in 2013/14.

The Royal Bolton saw more than 400 people attend A&E every day from Friday to Sunday over the Easter bank holiday.

The department would usually expect to see between 320 and 350 per day and, in December, attend-ances dropped to 280.

Andy Ennis, chief operating officer at the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said the A&E system needs attention.

Mr Ennis told the board of directors yesterday: “We had the worst Easter performance for a long time on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“We admitted signifi-cantly more patients than we discharged every day.

“There were periods where we were overwhelmed in A&E. Sometimes it took three and a half hours just to see a patient.”

“But we were not the only trust that struggled in Greater Manchester in April.”

The main causes were said to be the high volume of attendances, a lack of “flow” through the A&E departments and staffing problems.

Delays in bed availability had a knock-on effect — adding half a day to a patient’s average length of stay in hospital.

Limited GP and pharmacy access were also listed as a factor by hospital directors.

Mr Ennis added: “There were process issues we didn’t get right. I would say a third of the problem was because we were overwhelmed and two thirds were down to flow issues.“ The Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) launched a campaign to discourage people from attending A&E during the Easter Bank Holiday.

Dr Barry Silvert, clinical director for commissioning at the CCG, said: “Bolton A&E has performed very well over the past 12 months.

“However, we are aware that this has not continued over recent weeks.

“We are working closely with the trust to look at how we can ensure that performance improves.”