COLCHESTER General Hospital has seen a sharp increase in the number of accident and emergency patients coming through its doors, figures reveal.

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The number of A&E attendances so far this year is 9,936 - up by almost 900 compared to the same time period last year.

A breakdown of the figures released by the Trust show there has been an increase in A&E patients every week in 2013 apart from in the middle of January.

The beginning of February saw the largest rise with a total of 1,554 patients visiting the hospital in one week.

Bosses at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said increases can happen at any time of the year but they are expected during the winter months.

During a meeting of the Trust board meeting last week, it emerged the hospital was seeing 50 more patients than usual everyday which the deputy chief executive described as “particularly challenging.”

A spokesman for the Trust said the hospital has contingency wards in place which are set-up when demand is particularly high and these were currently being used.

He said while it was important the public understands what the A&E department is for and is mindful of the alternatives, the hospital was there 24/7 for those who need it.

He said: “We have contingency wards which can be activated pretty quickly to help cope with high numbers of people coming through the door which we are using.

“250 A&E patients a day is the top end of the scale, which is what the hospital is currently seeing.

“So yes we have been busy but we anticipate being busy in winter. We have plans for it and people can be assured if they need A&E services we will do our best for them.”

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