ROYAL Blackburn Hospital has seen a decline in its A&E performance from last year, with a doctors’ union describing the situation as very sad.

Performance dropped by two per cent between April and September this year compared to the same time last year.

Last year, 74 per cent of patients were seen within four hours of being in A&E compared to 72 per cent this year.

The government target is 95 per cent.

The situation is compounded by a number of unfilled roles at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust.

In March 2018, the most recent period for which data is available, there were vacancies equivalent to 140 full time jobs, compared with 72 in April 2017.

Of those, 94 were nurses, 16 were other medical staff and 30 admin roles.

David Wrigley, Lancashire’s rep on the British Medical Association, called for the NHS to be properly funded and staffed.

He said: “This is a common scenario every year with waiting times and staff morale at a real low due to government underfunding.

“It’s a vicious cycle and puts more pressure on the A&E.

“The situation is very sad and we need a properly funded NHS and more staff.”

But Tony McDonald, deputy director of operations at the trust, said its performance against the national A&E standard has recently been as high as 85 per cent.

He said: “Each winter there are extra pressures on the NHS, and each year we prepare thoroughly to manage during busy periods.

“Despite a national shortage, East Lancashire Hospitals continues to successfully recruit new staff for our A&E and urgent care centres.”

He said the opening of a new respiratory assessment unit last year and a new Ambulatory Emergency Care Unit last month, were examples of how the trust has prepared for winter pressures.

A spokesman for the department of health and social care said: “We recognise winter can be challenging, but as the report itself notes, the NHS will benefit from a second year of better, enhanced, national level winter planning, as well as £420 million to redevelop A&Es, improve emergency care and help get patients home quicker.

“The most recent performance statistics show that despite an increase in demand, hardworking and dedicated staff ensured that nearly 2,000 more patients a day were seen within four hours in September compared to the same month in 2017.”