ABOUT 200 patients each week have been left waiting longer than the nationally-capped four hours for care at the Great Western Hospital’s accident and emergency department since the beginning of January – a third more than in December.

Last week, 82.2 per cent of patients were treated within four hours, falling short of the NHS’s required target of 95 per cent.This represented a nearly 10 per cent drop from the 91.2 per cent seen in good time at the start of December.It meant 256 people were forced to wait longer than four hours in various stages of discomfort or illness.

A total of 93 people spent between four and 12 hours on trolleys. In the week ending January 26, 88.2 per cent of people attending A&E were treated within four hours, while 166 waited longer.

It marked a further decline from the 89 per cent recorded in the previous seven days, but a slight rise on the week ending January 5, when 81.8 per cent of A&E patients were seen within the required time period. In the first week of December 91.2 per cent of patients were seen in time, and 118 left to wait for treatment. The figure plummeted to 84 per cent by the end of the month.

Health chiefs said, as well as an increase in chronic diseases and an ageing population placing heavy pressures on the department, people are also wrongly assuming A&E should be their first port of call even when suffering from a common cold or minor ache or pain, prolonging waiting times. They would be seen quicker at A&E.

This is despite a campaign launched in 2011, urging patients to Choose Well. The campaign aims to ensure people are informed of all their options when in need of medical assistance, to prevent crowds at A&E.

“The first thing people should think about is self care and make sure they have paracetamol at home and common cold remedies,” said emergency department consultant Dr Stephen Haig.

“They should also see their pharmacists who are able to give advice on things like sore throats and pains. They can go to their GP surgery, the out-of-hours GP, or the walk-in centre.”