PLANS are in place to expand the size of Dorset County Hospital’s A&E department.
The hospital confirmed the news as part of a response to new data showing a decrease in the number of people seen within four hours.
The data is taken from the first week of January both in 2013 and 2014.
A Freedom of Information request, submitted by the Echo, revealed a drop of nearly 5 percent from figures recorded the previous year. While 98.3 per cent of patients were seen within four hours in the first week of 2013, this fell to 93.76 per cent in the first week of 2014.
It meant the hospital fell below the national target of 95 per cent.
Plans for the department’s expansion are in their early stages but it is hoped building work will start later this year.
A spokesperson for Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Plans are currently being finalised to expand our Emergency Department (ED).
“The idea is to create more space for the care of patients and to improve links with the diagnostic imaging department.”
The spokesperson added that the ED had been under increasing pressure, largely because of a greater number of patients attending who are seriously ill.
She said: “These patients require more investigations before being treated and/or admitted which in turn has an impact on overall ED waiting times.
“We have also had issues throughout the hospital with discharging patients in a timely way so that we have inpatient beds available for emergency patients.
“We are working with our partners to ease these problems.”
The trust is looking at new ways to treat patients at home.
The Acute Hospital at Home scheme allows people to receive treatment at home, avoiding repeat admissions to hospital.
Despite the drop in figures, Derek Julian, a governor at the hospital, said he had received positive feedback about the department from patients and staff.
He said: “They are obviously trying to improve it and we’d welcome it.”
Mr Julian said he recently took part in an inspection with fellow governor Andy Hutchings. He maintained it was ‘one of the best’ A&Es in the country.
Mr Julian said: “The waiting times up there are quite good in comparison with other hospitals. I was very pleased with the A&E a month ago when I visited.”
Mr Julian said there was always a need for independent inspections.
He added: “I will criticise when necessary but I will praise when I know the facts.
“This is the beauty of independent inspections. We get to the truth.”
Fellow governor Andy Hutchings said: “I think the hospital does a brilliant job.
“As a governor I did a recent night time inspection, and I was very impressed with the service of the team.”
Last year's data
Number of ED attendances in first week of January 2013 – 763
Percentage of people seen within four hours – 98.3%
Number of ED attendances in first week of January 2014 – 705
Percentage of people seen within four hours – 93.76%
Average number of patients seen in ED on a Saturday – 116*
Average number of patients seen in ED on a Sunday – 123*
*Average number of attendances during financial year 2013/2014