A FIFTH of patients at Great Western Hospital were left waiting in the hospital’s emergency department for more than four hours.

In Swindon, 22.4 per cent of patients who visited the emergency department in June stayed in the emergency department longer than four hours.

The national target is for 95 per cent of people to be seen within that time.

The figures were shared by hospital bosses at a meeting of GWH’s board of directors on Thursday.

Across all departments that handle emergency attendances, 87.8 per cent of patients were seen within four hours in June – down by over four percentage points from the previous month.

These figures include those who travelled to the GWH Urgent Care Centre and Minor Injuries Units in Chippenham and Trowbridge, which are managed by the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Overall, there were fewer people attending the emergency department in June – down six per cent compared to May. But, according to hospital bosses, patients were more seriously ill.

Adrian Griffiths, interim chief operating officer at GWH, said: “Acuity and patient dependency were higher than would be expected for a summer month, with a resultant difficulty in securing timely discharges.”

The hospital’s busiest day came on Monday June 6, when 71 patients were left waiting for longer than four hours – and 28 held out for more than 12 hours.

Four patients were waiting for more than 12 hours for doctors to take a decision on whether or not to admit them for care on the wards.

That day, the GWH had declared a so-called OPEL 4 status, the highest alert hospitals can place themselves under. It means that pressures have become so great, patient care and safety are much more likely to be compromised.

This week health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) praised improvements by staff at the GWH’s emergency department.

It follows an inspection in 2015 after which inspectors issued a warning notice about the emergency department needing improvement.

The CQC, whose inspectors visited the hospital in March, said this week that while the department was often full, staff worked hard to make sure care for patients was safe.

They demanded that the trust ensure the emergency department’s observation unit be sufficiently staffed to keep patients safe.

Hospital managers said that they planned a range of improvements, including a change to doctors’ work patterns to ensure better staff coverage in the acute medical unit.