RISING attendances and waiting times at A&E in mid Cheshire have brought services to ‘breaking point’, a trade union has said.

UNISON, which boasts 1.3 million members from across the NHS and other public services, has warned of a difficult winter in Victoria Infirmary Northwich and Leighton Hospital.

Figures published last week show that, in September, some of the services’ more-than 8,000 patients waited more than six hours for treatment, while five per cent walked out before receiving treatment.

This reflects both a month-on-month and year-on-year increase, while national figures for October have this week been branded the worst ever reported.

At Leighton, a 10 per cent increase in A&E attendances was recorded – around two-thirds more than the national average in the same period.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis highlighted underfunding and staffing crises as the causes of the increase, in which waiting times in mid Cheshire rose from 219 minutes to 361 minutes in 12 months.

He said: “Patients left in agony on trolleys and poorly visitors to A&E forced to sit on floors for hours because of a lack of chairs has become the new normal. Services are on their knees.

“These are the worst ever A&E figures yet the winter has barely begun. It’s a shocking state of affairs and should be of huge concern to every one of us.

“The pressure on hospitals is going through the roof because of the failure to tackle the social care mess. The next government must put the health of the nation and the NHS as its top priorities.”

The Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (MCHT) service fell well below the national average on a number of key A&E indicators for September 2019 – a legacy of similar showings in August 2019 and back in September 2018.

Five per cent of patients left Leighton or VIN without treatment in September, compared to 2.1 per cent across England. Meanwhile, 95 per cent of mid Cheshire patients were seen within 361 minutes compared to 239 nationwide.

Waiting times rose by 13 minutes from the previous month, which also saw the same amount of patients leave before treatment – up from zero in September 2019.

Chris Oliver, chief operating officer at MCHT, said: “A&Es across the country have seen an increase in attendances over the last year and Leighton Hospital is no exception – we have witnessed a ten per cent increase over this time, which is around two-thirds more than the national average. For our community, this is partly due to a growing and ageing population with more complicated health needs.

“To help keep up with demand, we have opened additional beds, invested heavily in our emergency department’s workforce and are currently in the process of expanding Leighton Hospital’s A&E.

"We are also working closely with our partners around alternatives to A&E, such as increasing provision for patients who don’t need to be in the department.

“Despite current demand, staff across the trust continue to work hard to ensure patient safety and that services run as smoothly as possible and we would like to thank them for their dedication.

"The demand has meant, however, that some patients have had to wait longer than usual to be treated and we would like to apologise to those affected.

“The public can also help NHS staff by choosing the most appropriate service for them.

"This includes calling 111 or visiting 111.nhs.uk if you need medical help fast but it’s not an emergency.”