LOCAL Accident and Emergency departments have been buckling under the pressure because of the sheer number of people turning up this winter.

And one hospital has said many of the patients coming through its doors are “acutely ill” rather than time-wasters who could be treated elsewhere.

Airedale Hospital in Steeton saw a massive 231 per cent rise in the number of people visiting its A&E this January, compared to January 2016.

Meanwhile, Bradford Royal Infirmary, which has one of the country’s busiest A&E departments, saw a 32 per cent rise compared to the same month last year.

Many patients are facing long waits to be seen - both hospitals failed to meet their target of seeing 95 per cent of patients within four hours, with Airedale reporting a rate of 88 per cent and BRI a rate of 87 per cent.

Stacey Hunter, chief operating officer for the Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We had an extremely busy festive period, and continued to experience significant pressure throughout January.

“We apologise to people who attended our Emergency Department and had to wait longer than we would have liked due to the number of people seeking help.

“Our local A&E delivery board issued a wide variety of communications via local media, social media, posters, leaflets and websites which ran alongside the national Stay Well campaign.

“However, we saw a higher proportion of acutely ill patients in January and there is no one factor that we can pinpoint for the increase in Emergency Department attendance.

“I’m pleased to report that we are now managing to see most patients within the four-hour target.”

A spokesman for Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said a new pilot project to improve urgent care was seeing results.

The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Acceleration Zone is being funded by NHS England until the end of this month. It sees health organisations working together on urgent and emergency care - for example by having local GPs or practice nurses in emergency departments as well as A&E doctors.

The spokesman said: “We are working closely with our partners on a number of initiatives to improve the flow of patients within the department, including working as part of the West Yorkshire Acceleration Zone.

“By working together and developing an integrated urgent care model across West Yorkshire, we aim to improve the flow of patients, reduce the demand on the Emergency Department and reduce waiting times so that more patients are treated, admitted or discharged within four hours.

“Due to this we have seen improved performance in the last two months. We have met the four hour target on a number of days in February and March.”

In January, bosses at BRI said they estimated about a third of people going to their emergency department could have seen a pharmacist or GP instead.

But research by watchdog group Healthwatch found most people had sought advice before turning up, with many signposted to A&E by GPs, receptionists or advice line NHS 111.