NURSING chiefs have summoned Southampton hospital bosses to urgent talks after the Daily Echo revealed waiting times in the city’s accident and emergency department have rocketed.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is concerned about the failure of Southampton General Hospital to meet a key target – to treat 95 per cent of patients in casualty within four hours.

Just three weeks ago A&E treated only 60.4 per cent of patients within the four-hour target – with 741 patients forced to wait longer, which is almost a 700 per cent rise on the same week last year.

Hospital bosses have blamed an “extremely busy and prolonged winter” for creating sustained pressure on resources, with an “exceptional” increase in numbers of patients during the week in April.

It comes after the Daily Echo exclusively revealed that the hospital had been stretched to the limit and overwhelmed with patients during the winter months.

The Echo reported figures that showed the hospital was put on its most extreme alert more times than ever before and how the accident and emergency department failed to meet the 95 per cent within four hours target for 46 consecutive weeks.

Between December and February bosses were forced to put the hospital on black alert a record 27 times and between April 2012 and February 2013, almost a quarter of patients – 19,193 – in accident and emergency department were not seen within four hours.

The RCN is seeking “urgent” talks with hospital bosses to find out why this is happening.

Patricia Marquis, south east regional director of the RCN, said: “It isn’t clear why the situation is getting worse. It is probably the culmination of several factors causing these problems and we will be seeking urgent talks with the trusts involved to try and find out what is going so wrong.”

Hospital bosses said the reason for such poor performance in the week ending April 7 was because casualty was getting 430 patients a day – 130 more than normal.

However, as the Daily Echo has reported, concerns over waiting times in the accident and emergency department over the past year forced chiefs to call in a NHS task force to identify an action plan.

In a statement Judy Gillow, director of nursing at the hospital, said: “As one of the largest acute hospital trusts in the country incorporating a major trauma centre for the critically and seriously injured, we treat around 300 patients in the emergency department every day and it is necessary to prioritise based on clinical need.

“Following an extremely busy and prolonged winter, which created a sustained period of pressure on resources in urgent and elderly care as well as across our hospitals as a whole, waiting times have been higher than we would want or normally expect.”