Patients are being put at risk at Accident and Emergency departments across the Bradford district with staff under constant pressure to meet four- hour targets, it has been claimed.

The Liberal Democrats say too much strain is put on staff not to breach the four-hour treatment time to ensure hospitals are not fined – rather than focussing on patients.

A Freedom of Information request revealed almost one in every ten patients seen at Bradford Royal Infirmary (9.88 per cent) were moved to a different ward, or discharged within the last ten minutes before a breach occurred.

With a further 3.79 per cent of patients leaving A&E 20 minutes before the four hour cut off point – it means 13.67 per cent of all patients seen within the department left within the last 20 minutes.

Some 26 other hospital trusts moved more patients in the last 20 minutes than at BRI.

At the A&E department at Airedale General Hospital only one in 50 patients (2.2 per cent) left or were transferred after three hours 40-50 minutes and one in 33 (3.4 per cent) in the last ten minutes before a breach – meaning just 5.6 per cent of patients were in the department for almost four hours.

Dr Andrew Catto, of Airedale NHS Trust, said: “Patients are our priority at Airedale NHS Trust and making sure they receive appropriate and timely treatment is always our aim.

“Whatever is achieved by the Trust is achieved by its staff and I’d like to thank them all for their help and support to ensure patient safety and quality of care are always uppermost in our minds.”

In 2000 Government said no patient should be waiting more than four hours in A&E from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge – which was later reduced to 98 per cent after doctors said it was too restrictive.

But Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said the Government must put safety first, not targets.

A Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “Patient safety is paramount. We are always looking at new ways to improve the patient experience and the quality of care received.

“A number of initiatives are in place to achieve this, and build upon the progress that has been made in many areas.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Hospital A&Es are obliged to see patients in four hours and any evidence that this is not happening is a serious matter.

“Transfers in the last 15 minutes do not prove that there is a problem unless the evidence also shows that the transfers were in all cases inappropriate.”