HOSPITALS are admitting the highest number of emergency patients since records began, according to NHS England.
There were 111,062 emergency admissions last week alone.
Dr Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning operations for NHS England, said: “Pressures on our A&E services continue to increase significantly.
“We have admitted more people to hospital this week (ending December 14) to take care of them than in any previous week on record. I want to pay tribute to the staff dealing with that - they are doing a brilliant job.
“While we are now below the extremely high waiting time standards that we set ourselves, the service we provide remains robust.”
Records for emergency admissions have been held for more than a decade.
NHS England data showed that 440,428 patients attended A&E last week, which was over 24,000 more than in the same period last year.
Just 89.8% of patients were seen within the target four-hour waiting time.
Meanwhile the number of patients having to wait longer than four hours for a bed once a decision has been to admit them into hospital from A&E was more than 10,000.
This was fewer than 4,000 at the same time last year.
The figures led to more warnings that the NHS needs urgent action to help it cope over the winter.
Richard Hawkes, chairman of the Care and Support Alliance - which represents more than 75 of Britain’s leading charities, said: “The pressure on our health system is being intensified by the squeeze on council-funded local care.
“Chronic underfunding has left hundreds of thousands of older and disabled people, who need support to do the basics like getting up or out of the house, cut out of the care system
“The impact is now being felt throughout the health and care system and the health service is forced to pick up the pieces when people become isolated, can’t live on their own and slip into crisis.”
Mark Porter, the chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA), said that staff were having to work ‘’flat-out’’ simply to cope with demand.
Dr Porter told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘’We’ve seen record numbers of patients waiting longer for treatment in emergency departments. We’ve seen emergency admissions at the highest they’ve been since records began.
‘’But to me, the most important thing is really that the entire system is being run at a crisis basis simply in order to keep up with our existing work.
‘’That means, of course, that our resilience to a further crisis - a winter crisis, or anything else laid on top of it - is reduced because everybody is at the present time working the system flat-out to serve patients.’’
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham warned last week that steps must be taken to boost the ability of the NHS to cope over the festive period.
He said: “’Before the Commons breaks for Christmas, ministers need to come and set out the measures they will take to help the NHS cope over the Christmas period.
‘’Labour has been warning the Government for months about the growing crisis in A&E but it has failed to act. But even ministers must now accept that these figures are a worrying wake up call. They are proof you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”