Three in five people who arrived at Royal Bolton Hospital's A&E department were seen within four hours last month, new figures show – missing the government's latest NHS target.

It comes as the government announced a two-year plan to stabilise NHS services which set a recovery target of 76 per cent of patients to be seen within four hours by March.

The original NHS standard is 95 per cent, and across England, 74 per cent of patients were seen within four hours.

It was an improvement from 71 per cent the month before, but the target was still missed.

NHS England figures show there were 11,312 visits to A&E at the Royal Bolton in March.

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Of them, 6,930 were seen within four hours – accounting for 61 per cent of arrivals.

It means the trust fell significantly short of the recovery target and the NHS standard.

Rae Wheatcroft, chief operating officer at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, says that the emergency department is under immense pressure, and that the figures show that the demand for services is continuing to grow every year.

Mrs Wheatcroft said: “We know many patients are waiting longer than they and we would like them to, and we’re doing everything we possibly can to provide the best care for them.

The Bolton News: “Our emergency department continues to face immense pressure following another busy winter, and our figures show the demand for our services is increasing every year.”

At Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, 1,114 patients waited longer than four hours, including 654 who were delayed by more than 12 hours.

Mrs Wheatcroft says that the hospital has recently introduced a number of measures to ensure that patients are seen, treated, and discharged sooner.

The hospital is keen to continue finding ways to bring down the waiting times even more.

Mrs Wheatcroft said: “We have recently introduced a number of measures to make sure people are seen, treated, and discharged sooner and we’ll continue to look for more opportunities to bring down our waiting times.

“People can help us by only using the Emergency Department in life or limb-threatening emergencies.

The Bolton News: “For advice about your symptoms please use or consider using your local GP or pharmacy for minor conditions.”

Across the country figures also show 42,968 emergency admissions waited more than 12 hours in A&E departments from a decision to admit to actually being admitted – down from 44,417 in February.

The number waiting at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission rose slightly, from 139,458 in February to 140,181 in March.

About 2.4m people attended A&E departments across England last month – the busiest month ever and 9 per cent higher than the number of attendances in March 2023.

The overall number of attendances to A&E at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust in March was a rise of 6 per cent on the ​10,699 visits recorded during February, and 4 per cent more than the 10,889 patients seen in March 2023.

Sarah Scobie, Nuffield Trust acting director of research, said: "Despite the incentive scheme to improve A&E waits for this month, with the highest performing trusts being rewarded financially, progress has been limited and the long-term strategy for reducing waiting times is unclear.

"There were record high attendances to A&E in March, making it even more challenging for targets to be met, and while there was a slight fall in the proportion of people waiting longer than four hours, it’s concerning to see that the number stuck on trolleys for hours while they wait for a ward space to become available has not improved at all."

Danielle Jefferies, senior analyst at the King's Fund, said: "As we approach the end of the winter period, it is possible to draw comparisons on how the NHS fared this season compared to last year.

"These latest statistics show that while winter pressures may not have dominated headlines as much as last year, the NHS is stuck in a cycle of poor performance."

She added long term solutions lie in bolstering out-of-hospital care and attracting more people to work in the health service.

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