MORE patients are enduring 12-hour 'trolley waits' to be admitted into hospital in Worcestershire than anywhere else in the country, shock figures reveal.
Figures from NHS England show 167 patients needing hospital admission were forced to wait for 12 hours or more in A&E in Worcestershire during January – the worst performance in the entire country by some distance.
The next worst performer was Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, where 125 patients waited more than 12 hours, while across the whole country there were 988 'trolley waits' of more than 12 hours.
The data, which comes as the NHS nationally recorded its worst ever month for waiting times, lays bare the extent of the ongoing crisis at troubled Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, which runs Worcestershire Royal Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.
It also shows 1,334 of the trust's 3,842 emergency patients in January were kept waiting more than four hours to be admitted to hospital, while just 77.3 per cent were seen within four hours of arriving at A&E – well below the Government target of 95 per cent and the national average of 85 per cent.
Worcestershire Acute Trust says it is "acutely aware" of the situation, and has been working to reduce waiting times.
But the figures have been branded "very concerning" by Worcester's MP Robin Walker.
"These figures reflect on what we know was a very, very difficult period at the beginning of this year," he said. "Clearly, we want to see the hospital being able to see all its patients within that target. We need to look at all the different ways of turning the situation round.
"I'm pushing the case for a much more significant investment at the hospital to get a major expansion at the emergency department.
"While there are challenges we shouldn't let that detract from the amazing care that staff at the hospitals provide."
Peter Pinfield, chairman of watchdog Healthwatch Worcestershire, said: "This is happening across the country but I'm not proud that Worcestershire is on the list for poor performance.
"That is not acceptable from our point of view and we want to see it improve. There are no easy solutions, we have just got to keep working at it.
"It has been stretched to its limits this year."
The acute trust has been in special measures since December 2015 after it was rated inadequate by Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors.
In January, the CQC gave the acute trust six weeks to significantly improve of face action – with that deadline passing yesterday (Friday, March 10).
An acute trust spokesman said: "The trust experienced high levels of demand for emergency services throughout the winter months and we are on record as saying that our performance is not good enough and must improve.
"We have been have working on measures to help reduce pressures and reduce the amount of time patients spend in our A&E departments.
"We often have a number of patients in hospital who are medically fit for discharge. Regrettably, this means that some of our patients currently wait too long in A&E as a result of lack of flow out of hospital.
"We are continuing to work closely with social care, the local Health and Care Trust and GP partners to ensure that when clinically fit, patients are discharged.
"We recognise that any time spent waiting can be very distressing and to ensure that we deliver a safe service we have additional staff in our A&E department helping during this very busy period.
"We are acutely aware that the experience we are giving to our patients is not what we want and our staff are continuing to work to ensure that safe care is provided at all times."