More than 30,000 people waited four hours or more in A&E at the East Lancashire Hospitals Trust last year, according to NHS England.
The NHS target is for 95% of people visiting A&E to be discharged, transferred or admitted to a ward within four hours of arriving. In East Lancashire that figure was just 70%.
The 2017-18 report shows that the trust’s major A&E department saw the equivalent of 287 people a day last year. Around 104,900 people went to A&E, down from 110,500 the previous year.
Of these, 31,411 waited for more than four hours, from arriving in A&E to being discharged, transferred or admitted to a ward.
Dr Chris Moulton, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “If you keep stretching an elastic band, eventually it will snap. You don’t ask ‘why did the elastic band snap’ - it snapped because you stretched it.”
He said that A&E departments were struggling to cope with the demands of a growing and ageing population, particularly since a lack of social care beds keeps elderly patients waiting in A&E.
He said that the more “badly stretched and understaffed” departments were, the more difficult it is to recruit junior doctors, creating a “vicious circle” of staff shortages.
Dr Moulton still supports the 95% target, saying that it’s a “good pressure” on emergency departments to keep as few patients waiting as possible.
According to Dr Moulton, the solution is simple - more acute hospital beds, increased capacity in social care, and the staff and facilities to keep those beds open.
Professor Damian Riley, Medical Director for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Working closely with our NHS and social care partners, emergency department staff are pulling out all the stops to manage the pressures on our very busy A&E, urgent care centres and minor injury units.
“In recent years, a number of factors have meant that looking after patients within four hours has become increasingly challenging. In the case of 999 arrivals and the patients most likely to be admitted, we will only transfer these patients to a ward when a bed is ready and the patient is stable.
“Either of these conditions not being fulfilled can mean that the patient stays longer under the care of A&E staff.
“The Trust continues to invest significantly in extra facilities, equipment and staff to care for patients.”