WAITING times in accident and emergency in Southampton have plummeted well below government targets with less than 80 per cent of patients being seen within four hours.

NHS England released figures today showing that University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Southampton General Hospital, failed to meet the target of seeing 95 per cent of patients within the government set time limit over the festive period.

For the week ending December 28, 79.1 per cent of patients in the city's A&E were dealt with within four hours.

It was slightly higher the previous week, when 83.1 per cent of the 2,134 patients admitted to the department were seen within the limit, but still well below the 95 per cent target.

Southampton Itchen MP John Denham said: “I think this is a pretty disastrous situation and it is a symptom of the pressures being felt right across the health service.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that hospital bosses feel they are “running just to keep still” to cope with rising demand.

Dr Mark Porter, British Medical Association council chair, aded: “The latest figures from Southampton General Hospital highlight the unprecedented levels of pressure that the NHS is currently under. Staff are working flat out but the system is struggling to cope with the sheer number of patients coming through the door.

"Growing pressure on services throughout the year means hospitals such as Southampton, have no spare capacity to deal with the winter spike in demand. So patients are enduring delays in their treatment, and the NHS finds itself running just to stand still."

Figures for Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which includes the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, in Winchester, showed that just 85.5 per cent of patients to their A&E departments were being seen within four hours in the week ending December 21.

This rose to 91.2 per cent the following week, when 2,107 patients came through their doors.