THE county’s main A&E department is not big enough to cope with demand, the trust’s chief executive has admitted, as he pleads for more money from the government to help build a bigger unit.

Hospital trust boss Matthew Hopkins aid the lack of space at Worcestershire Royal Hospital was a “major constraint” with the number of people attending A&E increasing by at least eight per cent year-on-year.

Mr Hopkins, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said the hospital’s A&E department was too small and that the trust needed government money to make it bigger – particularly as the number of children attending A&E was rapidly reaching the limit whereby the hospital would need its own paediatric department.

Mr Hopkins said: “I think the longstanding nature of the space challenges and the overall capacity challenges have really been quite significant.

“Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s A&E department was built for a specific number of thousands of attenders and we are seeing an eight per cent increase year-on-year.

“So now we are in a situation where the emergency department is too small and particularly, we are now seeing paediatric attendances reaching the threshold which would require us to have a dedicated paediatric A&E department.”

He said addressing that would require a “complete rebuild” of the hospital’s A&E department.

Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s A&E department was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following an inspection in December last year because patients were waiting too long to be seen and not referred to specialists quickly enough.

The hospital watchdog said some patients had waited for more than three hours at the A&E department after arriving by ambulance with the longest wait for a bed almost 24 hours.

The hospital’s A&E department was hit again with the worst possible rating just six months after moving from inadequate to requires improvement. The department had previously been in special measures for four years.

CQC bosses hit the hospital with urgent enforcement powers to protect patients which includes forcing the trust to clinically asses all patients arriving at Worcestershire Royal Hospital by ambulance within 15 minutes and increase the number of observations to make sure patients are referred to the most appropriate treatment area as quickly as possible.

Mr Hopkins, who has already written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock asking for money expand the A&E department, said he was working with other hospital chiefs, with the support of the county’s MPs, to ensure the hospital had an A&E department that was the “right size.”

Mr Hopkins said the hospital was putting in place several “sticking plaster” measures whilst discussions continued with the Health Secretary.

However, Mr Hopkins also said around 40 or 50 beds on average were occupied by people who did not need to be there.

The latest plea for money would include building a paediatric emergency apartment as part of £40 million worth of improvements to the city’s hospital and Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.

A separate £29 million plan, which was awarded to the trust in 2017, includes the building of a paediatric assessment unit at Worcestershire Royal, which the trust hopes to have built within the next year, as well as the refurbishment of six operating theatres at the Alex.

The region’s hospital bosses were grilled by councillors over the inadequate rating at a health overview and scrutiny committee meeting at County Hall on Monday (March 2).

Staff shortages was also putting increased pressure on the hospital and the A&E department.

Mike Hallissey, chief medical officer at the trust, said a national and regional shortage of doctors and nurses meant the hospital was having to rely on expensive agency staff as a “short term fix” to plug the gap.

Mr Hallissey said the trust needed to increase the number of its doctors and nurses by 40 to 50 per cent to reach an appropriate level.

Vicky Morris, chief nursing officer at the hospital trust, said recruitment of nurses had been “positive.”