NEARLY 10 per cent fewer patients were seen within four hours at Royal Bolton Hospital's A&E department over the festive period than in 2018.

But with an average of 72.2 per cent seen over Christmas and New Year under the benchmark, the Bolton hospital rated higher than the rest of Greater Manchester.

Ambulance arrivals were also down 1.8 per cent at Bolton, year-on-year, and the rate was 9.2 per cent less than 2017/18.

NHS bosses had put in place a raft of yuletide contingency measures, Bolton clinical commissioners (CCG) have been told.

These included opening up an extra 26 escalation beds, mainly on Wards B4 and B22, and sourcing extra staffing.

An additional senior consultant worked at the A&E's 'front door' and five care home places were commissioned to aid discharge procedures.

More doctors were drafted in to enable the primary care service within casualty to open from 9am to midnight from December 27 to January 7.

Seven mental health patients only were sent out of the Bolton area, over the period, with only two cases leaving Greater Manchester, Bolton CCG board heard.

Andy Ennis, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust's chief operating officer, said: "Our A and E department helped 10,528 people in December 2019 - just over a six per cent increase in what we saw last December - with nearly 70 per cent being admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

"This was one of the busiest months in what has been our busiest ever year and it looks like this trend in demand is set to stay, as we have an ageing population, often with complex health problems.

"I am so proud of how our staff are coping with this demand.  Day-in-day-out they are going over-and-above to make sure they deliver the best of care."