YORK Teaching Hospital NHS Trust has been inundated with its highest number of A&E visits this decade - as its chief executive has said it is facing significant challenges.

More than 18,000 visits were made to the trust’s A&E departments in York and Scarborough in May, the busiest month of the decade so far.

The rising numbers come as figures show the trust has missed government-set targets to see patients within four hours for the last four years, as increasing numbers of patients need hospital care, putting strain on the NHS.

Mike Proctor, chief executive, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said it is seeing a higher number of patients attending the urgent care clinic than normal with conditions such as sprains and strains, suspected broken limbs and minor scalds and burns.

But he said that its A&E performance in May 2018 was on par with the national average and was improved on the same time last year, despite the fact that May 2018 was “our busiest month of this decade so far”.

He said: “We are working in one for the most challenged healthcare communities and the pressure facing our hospitals has been well documented in terms of the resources available to us and difficulties with recruitment in some areas. It has also been acknowledged, both locally and nationally, that achieving the four-hour performance target is not solely the responsibility of the emergency department.”

The York Trust saw 90.1 per cent of patients in A&E within four hours, compared to a national average of 90.4 per cent. National targets are set at 95 per cent. York is ranked 59th out of 133 trusts.

Meanwhile, the trust is also missing targets in cancer care. Government targets aim for 85 per cent of patients beginning treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral, however in York it was 78 per cent in May, ranking the trust as a low performer at 112 out of 133 trusts. The target was last hit in March.

Mr Proctor said about A&E: “We have been working within our own organisation, with primary care and social care and our commissioners to reduce delays across all parts of the system. For example, in York, we have introduced a new way of assessing patients who attend A&E to ensure they are seen by the most appropriate clinician.

“Patients are treated according to clinical need, and those requiring urgent attention are seen promptly, however when we are facing high demand those with minor or less urgent needs may find that they are waiting longer.”