THE accident and emergency department at Great Western Hospital has failed to hit its target of seeing all patients within four hours.

A Swindon Council Health Overview report also revealed that during the winter period there could be a shortage, in the hospital and in the community, of up to 117 beds.

And there are fears patient safety could deteriorate as the number of people needing care continues to grow.

Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group has set up a working group to in a bid to tackle waiting times in A&E. Its priorities include discovering why patients are delayed in being discharged and a review of the mix of nursing skills.

The department has enough staff to cope with an 80 per cent usage of its services but for the first quarter of 2013 the department, at its peak, has seen a 223 per cent usage.

A GWH spokesman said: “The past few months have been some of our busiest.

“In preparation for the busy months ahead we have opened additional beds, have more staff in place this year than we did last year in wards and in the Emergency Department and have developed a range of new services which aim to reduce the time patients spend in hospital.

“However, managing the sorts of pressures the local NHS is witnessing relies on the whole health economy working together – it cannot be solved by any one organisation or any single action. The key to making this work is avoiding admissions to hospital in the first place.

“Wherever possible we support people at home or in the community, and make sure there is support available in the community for patients to be discharged out of hospital, freeing up beds. We are therefore working closely with the CCG, social care and our partners in the community, such as SEQO,L on a number of ways we can achieve this.”

A spokesman for Swindon CCG said the hospital is under pressure from demand. He added: “More rapid access for problems that a GP or nurse can assess is best handled via your local GP practice, walk-in centre or by speaking to your pharmacist.”

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said an extra winter allowance grant from the Government was being made available and he would support the hospital if it wants to apply for it.

”It is an issue for all the residents living in Swindon,” he said. “If they wanted to make a business case to apply for the funding I would be happy to support them with that.”