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'Sharp increase' in A&E traffic

There was a "sharp increase" in the number of people attending accident and emergency departments in England last week, with the target of seeing 95% of patients within four hours missed again.

Attendances went up more than 20,000 to 426,500, compared with 406,200 the previous week, NHS England said.

The percentage of patients waiting four hours or less from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge was 91.5% - down from 92% a week earlier.

It marks the 22nd week in a row that the target has been missed.

The levels of emergency admissions also rose in the week ending March 1 , with a total of 107,600.

This was up from 104,800 in the previous week and from 106,000 in the same week last year.

The number of people waiting for more than four hours to be admitted increased to 9,000 from 8,000 in the previous week.

Last week saw the highest level of attendances since the peak just before Christmas.

The number of instances of ''bed-blocking'' were down for the second successive week, with 3,700 hospital beds unavailable for incoming patients because of delays in transfers of occupants to care elsewhere, compared to 3,900 the previous week and 4,000 the week before.

The NHS 111 phoneline received 255,000 calls, down from the previous week's 261,000.

Public Health England said levels of flu remain the same and outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting in hospitals continue to be reported at similar levels to previous years.

Director of operations and delivery for NHS England, Dr Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, said: "A&E attendances jumped by over 20,000 people last week but the NHS continued to treat more than nine out of 10 patients within four hours.

"NHS 111 continues to perform well, with figures published today showing that in January it handled the second highest number of calls ever recorded - beaten only by the number of calls handled in December, where we saw unprecedented levels of demand over Christmas."

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