A WIRRAL hospital has claimed an increase in demand is the reason it missed its emergency waiting time targets for a second successive time.

Arrowe Park’s accident and emergency department failed to hit the target of seeing 95% of patients within four hours, achieving 91.2% for the last three months.

Health regulator Monitor has warned the hospital and in a report to the board of Wirral University Teaching Hospital says a number of factors – including frailer, sicker patients with more complex needs – influence the A&E’s difficulties in meeting targets.

The report says that because the impact of primary care in GP surgeries and clinics has grown, patients often only seek hospital care when they are in the “crisis stage” of health decline.

Over the past 12 months, the staffing model has changed dramatically at Arrowe Park’s A&E, with the amount of senior staff doubled.

The NHS trust said that while it is “disappointed” not to have met the target, the A&E is ranked the best in the country by patients who have completed the Friends & Family Test – which asked whether they would recommend their hospital.

A trust spokesman said: “Meeting this Government set target remains a very significant challenge across the NHS. As Wirral’s only emergency department, demand on the service remains as high as ever.”

In the financial year 2013 to 2014, the A&E saw 93,046 patients attend – an additional 1,000 patients on the previous year.

The spokesman added: “This issue isn’t specific to our hospital. It is a symptom of the changing and growing healthcare requirements of the population we serve. Our A&E department can only manage the demand it receives.

“We are doing a range of things to address this including working in partnership with our colleague in community, primary and social care to remodel the delivery of healthcare locally.

“Our frontline colleagues, in this extremely busy part of the hospital, work tirelessly to ensure patients receive their diagnosis and treatment with the minimum of delay.”

Patients at the A&E are treated in order of “clinical priority” meaning that during periods when the department experiences a high number of emergency ambulance arrivals, it can result in patients with “less serious conditions” having to wait longer.

The spokesman concluded: “We are working hard to balance the need to protect and improve the quality, safety and patient experience of all of our services and ensure that we deliver these improvements within our budget which remains under severe pressure given the demand based on our services.

“We’re working hard to balance these objectives – but our core priority remains the delivery of the highest quality of safe patient care possible.”