PATIENTS continue to be delayed getting urgent treatment at Hereford County Hospital as demand pressure takes its toll.

The hospital continues to be so full that it is operating at a level where experts say patient safety is a concern.

The latest figures tracking how hospitals are coping reveal 31 patients waiting for more than an hour in an ambulance outside the A&E department.

A total of 214 patients waited longer than 30 minutes. The target set by the NHS is 15 minutes.

The latest NHS weekly figures cover the week December 30 to January 5, and they show little let up in the pressure the hospital is under going as we enter the flu and norovirus 'seasons'.

But no beds were unavailable due to norovirus symptoms.

A total of 506 patients were brought by ambulance to A&E, which averages just over three an hour. On the busiest day - New Year's Day - it was 80.

Patients are unable to get in because the hospital is so full, both in terms of patients arriving and beds available.

General and acute wards at the Wye Valley NHS Trust were 96.9% full on average during the week – significantly above the 85% rate the British Medical Association says shouldn't be exceeded to ensure safe patient care.

On average, the trust had 265 beds available, including an average of 25 escalation beds, which are used in emergencies and periods of high demand. Just eight beds were free on an average day.

On the Monday, 120 patients had been in hospital for seven days or more at the trust. They accounted for 50% of all beds occupied.

Occupying 12% of beds, 28 patients had been in hospital for three weeks or longer.

Previously the trust has urged people who are not seriously ill to stay away from A&E and instead ring 111 or visit a pharmacist.