A DIP in the number of patients seen within four hours in a hospital’s accident and emergency department has been branded ‘unacceptable’.

Just 80.07 per cent of patients in March were seen within the national target of four hours at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital’s A&E.

The figure compares to 83.42 per cent of patients against the national target of 95 per cent in March last year.

East Lancashire’s patients’ champion Russ McLean blamed the weather for the drop and said A&E isn’t for ‘anything and everything’ but for an emergency.

He said: “It’s not an acceptable situation.

“The reality is there is pressure on A&E departments across the country and the 95 per cent target is not realistic.

“The weather has definitely had an impact on the March figure with more slips and falls, but people do need to get the message that A&E isn’t anything and everything and only for an emergency.”

Hyndburn’s health boss Cllr Munsif Dad said: "Accident and emergency departments are under a lot of pressure due to a lack of resources and funding.

"The weather certainly played a part in last month's poor figure and I fear the impending closure of Accrington Victoria Hospital's walk-in centre will make things worse."

It comes as NHS England figures show A&E departments nationally saw their lowest waiting time performance since records began in March, with the data also showing 2017/18 was the worst year on record.

John Bannister, director of operations for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said its emergency department had continued to experience 'enormous pressure' with a high number of patients seeking medical attention.

He said: "We responded to the demand with a number of new initiatives, including the creation of a new respiratory assessment unit so that the significant number of patients with respiratory conditions can be moved more swiftly through the emergency department.

“April has begun with continued high demand in the emergency department, so we cannot be complacent.

"We continue to work closely with GPs and other local community health services to plan for continued increased demand.

“I’d like to thank our staff for their continued professionalism and compassion during these periods of extreme demand. They are doing a fantastic job.”