Growing numbers of patients are waiting more than 12 hours to be treated in A&E departments at Suffolk hospitals, according to the latest NHS data.

Figures have revealed that between January and March, 285 patients spent more than 12 hours waiting in A&E at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, while 38 patients waited for the same length of time at A&Es at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals.

During the previous quarter, from October to December 2021, 103 patients waited more than 12 hours in A&E at West Suffolk Hospital, while at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, the equivalent figure was 10 patients.

The statistics relate to the waiting time after a patient has been seen by a healthcare professional and a decision has been made to admit them to A&E.

In more positive news, the Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, which are run by East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), were generally performing better than the national average for patients waiting for four hours or less in A&E.

Between January and March, 75.1% of patients waited for four hours or less at the ESNEFT A&Es, compared to the national average of 73%.

Equivalent percentages for West Suffolk Hospital were not available, although the data did reveal that during this period, 1,748 out of a total of 6,728 emergency admissions had to wait more than four hours for treatment at the Bury hospital.

Statistics from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), released last week, have revealed that more than 1,000 patients a day are waiting more than 12 hours in A&E departments across England from the time of their arrival.

In 2021, 381,991 patients experienced a 12-hour delay at 118 hospital trusts.

However, the data, which came from a Freedom of Information request sent by the RCEM, is collated differently to the NHS figures and refers specifically to waiting times after arrival, rather than the waiting time after a decision to admit.

Nicola Cottington, chief operating officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Bury hospital, said: “We are really sorry that people are waiting longer than we would want in our emergency department.

“The current waiting time in our emergency department is due to a combination of high demand, bed capacity issues caused by our ongoing planned maintenance programme and the need to protect beds for planned surgery to address the backlog caused by Covid-19.

“I want to thank our extremely hard-working staff who continue to provide care and support to anyone who comes through our doors, in very challenging circumstances.

“We would like to remind residents of west Suffolk to contact 111 in the first instance as this will ensure patients receive the right care in the right place, in a timely and safe way. In an emergency, our expert teams are always here for you.”

Neill Moloney, deputy chief executive of ESNEFT, said: “Minimising the amount of time patients need to spend in our emergency departments (EDs) is important to us and we continue to work closely with health and social care teams in the area to make sure we can treat and admit or discharge people as quickly as possible.

“There are some occasions where this is challenging. For example, when we need to make sure the correct teams are in place outside of ED to manage a patient’s ongoing care. Keeping our patients safe always remains our top priority in these circumstances.

“The best way our communities can support the NHS is to use services appropriately. If it’s not a medical emergency, call NHS 111 or go first.