THE amount of people waiting more than four hours for treatment at an Accident and Emergency department in Worcestershire has dropped below five per cent for the first time since last October.

A report issued by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust showed 96 per cent of patients visiting A&E at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital in June were seen within four hours, as set by the government.

The report also showed 13,000 patients visited A&E in the same month – although this is slightly fewer than in the previous month the overall amount of attendances has still be increasing steadily for some time.

The trust’s chief operating officer Stewart Messer said conditions for emergency departments in Worcestershire and across the country remained “challenging”.

Although a campaign has been running throughout Worcestershire encouraging patients to instead visit one of the county’s five community hospitals unless they are sure it is an emergency, Mr Messer said patients were continuing to flock to A&E.

“We are continuing to drive to educate patients about the best choice available to them,” he said.

“Some of the work we are doing as a health economy is paying off.

“We are definitely moving in the right direction.

“We are continuing to work tirelessly to make sure patients are treated efficiently.”

He added a problem faced by clinicians working at the trust was to free up as many beds as possible while not discharging patients too early.

Meanwhile, the trust is also working to clear the backlog of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for an elective operation.

There are currently 1,612 patients in the county who have been waiting longer than the government-mandated 18-week target. Although this is the lowest number since January, and more than 350 fewer than the previous month, this figure steadily increased throughout 2013.

The trust’s chief executive Penny Venables said it was hoped the backlog could be cleared by November or sooner.

“If we clear it by September we will but the reality is that’s only two months,” she said.

“We are working hard and doing whatever we can. That includes using the private sector.

“But it is a patient choice issue – some will choose to go to the NHS.

“We are extremely committed to pull forward as much as possible because we don’t want our patients waiting.”

Trust chairman Harry Turner said, although more investment in the organisation would be welcome, he was not convinced it would solve the currently problems.

Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust runs 24-hour minor injury units in Kidderminster and Tenbury which can deal with a range of injuries and health issues including broken bones, burns, cuts and grazes. The trust also runs units in Malvern, Evesham and Bromsgrove, with varying opening hours.

Anyone unsure about whether or not they should visit A&E can call NHS 111 for advice.

In an emergency always call 999.