Record numbers of patients are facing unprecedented waits for urgent hospital treatment as the crisis engulfing Kent's A&E departments deepens.
New statistics released by the NHS today reveal December was the busiest ever month for the county's over-stretched emergency units, with more than 60,000 people attending A&E.
Worryingly, one in 10 patients who then needed to be admitted for further treatment were left waiting 12 hours or longer for a bed, often alongside others in packed corridors.
The figures show the crisis at its most severe at the East Kent and Medway trusts, which together account for 93% of the county's so-called 'trolley waits'.
East Kent Hospitals saw 19,313 people through its emergency doors at the William Harvey in Ashford and QEQM in Margate last month, with an astonishing 1,190 patients who needed a bed having to endure a wait of 12 hours or more.
By way of contrast, 19,439 people went to A&Es in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells - but just 27 of them were kept waiting for at least half-a-day.
Across the same period, Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham recorded 560 lengthy 'trolley waits', from a total attendance of 8,624.
The winter crisis facing the NHS has led to a number of patients and their families sharing desperate accounts of their experiences in A&E.
One patient who endured a lengthy wait at A&E at the William Harvey in November described the scene as being "like a warzone" as waiting rooms and corridors filled with the sick and injured waited to be admitted to wards.
"The only comparison I could make was of a mega busy train station or airport, but so much more tense and worrisome," said 69-year-old Antony Foster, from Tenterden.
"At some point the rooms fell silent when a female voice announced to all that she was head of A&E and that she wanted to be honest with everyone.
"She said that anyone waiting for a blood test would have to wait two-and-a-half hours, and five-and-a-half hours to see a doctor, and if anyone had been promised a bed then they would not get one tonight.
"She was so apologetic and I felt for her. She said that if people wanted to they could leave, but she did not advise it as they would have to go through it all again."
Medway Maritime, which in the run-up to Christmas declared a critical incident over lack of capacity, this month apologised to 72-year-old man with dementia who was left sitting in an A&E corridor for 24 hours.
The family of Paul Coombs, who lives in Sittingbourne, hit out at the hospital after they claimed he was only given a single cup of tea during his day-long wait.
Trust bosses also offered apologies to 86-year-old Brian Hooker, who fell while walking home after giving up following a 15-hour wait in A&E.
The frail pensioner, who suffers from lung disease and mobility difficulties, had been taken to the hospital overnight, but set off on foot back to Chatham
The long A&E waits are primarily being caused by long delays in discharging patients who no longer need hospital care.
Statistics released this month reveal that hundreds of patients are continuing to be kept on wards in Kent even though they are well enough to be discharged.
Figures on what are described as "delayed discharges" show that the county’s acute hospitals are still struggling to free up beds for new patients.
An analysis of figures for the first week in December indicates that all Kent hospitals are continuing to have to prolong the time patients remain, because there is not the capacity required in the care home sector.
EKH reported that over the week in question, 2,420 beds were occupied by patients well enough to leave, but 1,727 patients had to remain.
Kent and Medway's Integrated Care Board - which commissions health services across the region - was asked why two of the county's trusts are recording far more trolley waits than the others.
It ignored the question, but a spokesperson responded: "Urgent and emergency services are facing significant demand with high numbers of A&E attendances.
“NHS staff are working incredibly hard through this challenging winter, with extensive plans in place to make sure patients have access to timely care when they need it, and that they can leave hospital when ready.
“It is important that people continue to come forward for care but patients should use the right service for them. If in doubt, they can contact NHS 111 online, which will advise them on the best place to go.”