Thousands of patients were admitted to West Hertfordshire hospitals in December as the NHS dealt with its worst waiting times on record.

The NHS standard is that at least 95 per cent of patients attending A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

But official NHS figures revealed that nationally hospitals are struggling to meet the 95 per cent target. Only 79.8 per cent of patients were seen nationally, the lowest since the target was introduced in 2004.

Within West Hertfordshire, 14,371 patients were taken to hospitals across Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, the highest number it’s been since the summer.

Of 9,812 patients that were admitted to the trust’s only major A&E department in Watford, nearly 3,000 were not seen within four hours.

However, the trust performed better in its minor injury units with only eight patients of the 4,559 not seen in under four hours.

The figures also showed that more than 4,000 patients who were admitted to West Hertfordshire hospitals were through emergency admissions, of which 625 were not seen within four hours.

It means that in total the trust saw 79.4 per cent of patients under four hours and was among other trusts in the East of England failing to meet the 95 per cent target.

However, the three hospitals in West Hertfordshire had to deal with sixth highest number of patients throughout the region.

And the trust saw the fifth largest number of patients in major and minor A&E departments throughout the region under four hours.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust said that it is working hard to reduce waiting times and that it plans to add an extra 70 beds at Watford General Hospital to help reduce waiting times in major emergency departments.

A spokesperson said: “We are continuing to develop more services together with our NHS partners to help people manage their conditions better so that they do not need to come to hospital.”

The trust added that since 2018 there has been an 11 per cent increase in attendance across emergency and urgent care at the three hospital sites, reflecting a national trend.

A spokesperson from the trust added: “We have robust plans for managing additional demand over winter and these have helped us to provide a safe service during this busy time.

“NHS figures show that, nationally, there was a 6.5% increase in emergency and urgent care attendances in December 2019 compared with the same month the previous year.”

They continued: “The choices patients make about where they access healthcare are among the contributing factors behind these figures.

“Some patients do not choose wisely and will experience long waits because they are a low priority clinically.

“These choices have an impact on those patients who are severely unwell and we are seeing ever growing numbers of acutely unwell patients.”

The trust urged people who need help to call NHS 111, which can advise on the most appropriate service to access and book out of hours appointments.