A RECORD number of people are turning up at A&E departments in Oxfordshire with health bosses admitting they can’t explain the rise.

Board members at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) were told that the number of daily attendances at the Horton General Hospital and at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford is the highest it has ever been.

Some 450 to 460 patients are going to A&E every day while over the winter the daily rate was at about 400, and 370 leading up to that.

Addressing the board last week, director of clinical services Paul Brennan said: “We are, I’m afraid, at a loss at the moment to understand what’s causing this.

“I was down there with colleagues and these aren’t minor injuries patients and not just elderly; these are very poorly, sick people.”

He added that between 95 and 97 per cent of general acute beds, and beds for acute surgery and trauma, were occupied on a given day.

At the same time, Mr Brennan said between 90 and 100 patients were still unnecessarily stuck in acute hospital beds each day.

He said: “Delayed transfer of care levels have climbed again to a level we haven’t seen for more than 16 months. It’s way higher than we were achieving last year.”

In the past 18 months OUH has invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into projects to speed up patients’ routes through and out of hospital.

It has included the Home Assessment Reablement Team, which supports patients at home, and the liaison hub, a step-down service for those waiting for a care home place.

It comes after a report published last week by the Care Quality Commission gave A&E at the JR a repeat ‘Requires Improvement’ rating.

While acknowledging the hard work of staff in the department, they noted patients were facing long waits and capacity was too low, impacting on safety.

Prof George Smith, the new chairman of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, said: “What we are seeing in the emergency department is a system stretched to the limit. I have to express a lot of sympathy for the people who are trying to run this system. They are working at the limits of what any humans could be expected to do.

“We have to take a step back and look at the broader context of the whole hospital, and social care. Flow through the system is not working properly.”