Patients in Sussex are waiting up to 12 hours in hospital accident and emergency departments for a bed.

The Argus has learned that 2,218 people ended up staying in A&E for between four and 12 hours in the past five months, more than double the number in the same period last year.

A further 25 patients waited for more than 12 hours.

The ill and frail have been forced to wait on trolleys, in a bed in A&E, or in an assessment area until a space has become avail- able elsewhere in the hospital.

Problem Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the county’s busiest emergency unit, at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, said it was “acutely aware” patients were waiting for too long, too often.

Patient groups are demanding more is done to tackle the problem.

The figures have been collated from weekly reports submitted by hospital trusts to the Department of Health and cover the period from September last year to the end of January.

Trusts are required to admit or discharge 95% of accident and emergency patients within four hours.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which also runs the A&E at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, had 1,328 patients waiting between four and 12 hours and 25 for more than 12 hours.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust had 842 delays and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust 48.

Delays are often due to bed shortages or because patients need X-rays, ultra- sound scans or other tests.

It can take longer than normal for tests to be carried out if the hospital is particularly busy.

A campaign has been launched by hospitals around the country, in partnership with GPs, pharmacists and social services, to try to reduce the number of patients going to A&E when they don't need to.

A spokesman for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “It has been reported nationally that one in four people who are seen in an A&E department could have self-treated or been treated elsewhere by another health service which is why, this winter, we have been running a campaign to try to raise awareness amongst the public of the alternatives to A&E.

“Of course, when patients need to be admitted from the emergency department we strive to do this as quickly as possible but when the hospital is as busy as it has been in recent months the reality is that there is not always a bed immediately available for them.

“Patients who we have to hold in the emergency department until they can be admitted are made as comfortable as possible and regularly monitored.

“We are, though, acutely aware this is happening too often and we are working extremely hard to create more capacity within the hospital and the community which will in turn allow us to admit every patient as soon as it is clinically appropriate to do so.”

A spokesman for the Patient Action Group in Sussex said: “This is obviously worrying, especially as the numbers have gone up.

“Waiting up to 12 hours is bad enough, when it is even longer than that it’s even worse.

“It is something that needs to be addressed, as many patients are elderly and this is a situation that could get worse instead of better as our population gets older.”