Published: 15:08, 14 November 2019
| Updated: 11:27, 15 November 2019
Overrun A&E departments across Kent are seeing one patient arrive at their doors every 56 seconds, new figures reveal.
Close to 50,000 people were treated at emergency units across the county last month, with one in four enduring waits of more than four hours.
A doctors' union says the statistics, released today, add weight to fears the NHS is heading for its "worst ever" winter crisis.
British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “These shocking figures show precisely what the BMA has feared – that the NHS is on a collision course for its worst winter yet.
"This is a catastrophe for the NHS with autumn figures as bad as any in the depths of winter.
“Patients should not fear needing hospital care or being able to see their GP, nor should they have to accept that they may spend hours on a trolley in an emergency department, waiting to be treated.”
Across Kent's four hospitals trusts, 47,512 people were seen at major A&E departments in October - 2,480 more than in the same month last year.
Of these, just 76.9% were admitted or transferred within four hours.
Medway NHS Foundation Trust was the worst performer, recording 68.7% - down from 77.3% the previous year.
But Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust has experienced the most drastic drop, falling from 85.4% to 70.9% over the same period.
James Devine, chief executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said the hospital was improving but that extremely high demand meant that "on some occasions, patients have spent more time in the department than they should.
He added: "I would like to apologise for any inconvenience or discomfort they may have experienced.
“We are concentrating on improving patient flow throughout the hospital so that patients get home to their families quicker, freeing up beds for new arrivals and reducing pressure and delays in our Emergency Department."
At MTW 86.5% of patients were seen within four hours, 1.2% down on last year, while at East Kent where waiting times have previously caused issues the figure was 75.8%, just 0.6% down.
The figures were released just days after a 99-year-old war hero from Canterbury was forced to wait 10 hours in A&E at the QEQM Hospital in Margate.
Hospital chiefs apologised to Brian Fish, who was left "crying in pain" on an emergency department trolley.