DORSET County Hospital’s emergency department is currently being inundated with more than double the number of patients the facility was originally built for.

Hospital governors have been told that plans are being worked on for an extension to the department to cope with the growing demand.

The situation in the emergency department was raised at a meeting of the hospital’s council of governors by Michel Hooper-Immins.

The public governor said he had been in the department in the early hours and seen patients left in corridors on trolleys due to how busy it was.

He said: “Can’t we treat patients a lot better than we have done?

“I do think we are failing patients in this way.”

One patient who recently attended the emergency department on a Saturday night said: “It was really hectic although I couldn’t fault the staff.

“There were quite a few young people who look as if their problems were self-inflicted.

“It certainly seems that they were struggling to cope with the numbers and it was a bit chaotic.”

“I had a relatively minor injury so I was happy to wait while more important issues were dealt with but it could certainly do with being expanded.”

The hospital’s director of operations Patricia Miller said the hospital was looking at an extension of the emergency department and a business case was due to be presented to the finance committee shortly.

She said that the unit had been built to treat 22,000 patients a year but was currently seeing 45,000.

However, Mrs Miller assured governors that all urgent patients would still be treated and if there was no room for them they will be assessed elsewhere.

Trust chairman Jeffrey Ellwood added that, while patients sometimes did have to face a wait, it was only because the unit had to prioritise those patients whose condition was deemed life-threatening.

He said: “Some people who are not as seriously ill as others may have to wait for someone whose life is in danger.” Mr Ellwood added that the hospital was prepared to do whatever it takes to address the increase in demand for the emergency department.

He said: “We are acutely aware of the situation and we are prepared to spend money trying to make it better.”

Some governors also spoke up for the current state of care in the emergency department.

Derek Julian and Andy Hutchings both spent time observing the ward recently and said they were impressed with what they saw.

Mr Julian said: “We came away so impressed by just sitting there and watching what the staff are doing and talking to the patients.

“I wouldn’t hear a word said against them.”

Mr Hutchings added: “It was first class there and the patients were being well looked after.”

The extension would see the number of cubicles in the emergency department increase from eight to 12.

Mrs Miller added that to get the build done quickly, the whole department could be temporarily relocated while the extension work is carried out.