Hundreds of patients are waiting up to 12 hours in hospital accident and emergency departments as winter pressures continue to bite.
The Argus has learned that so far this year, a total of 634 patients visiting A&E departments across Sussex have been stuck for between four and 12 hours.
Hospitals are treating a high number of very unwell patients who need to stay in for treatment as well as persistently high numbers of visitors to A&E.
This, coupled with problems caused by trying to find rehabilitation and nursing home places for older and vulnerable patients waiting to be discharged, can lead to a shortage of beds.
Most long waits were recorded by Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath among others.
In the five weeks up to the weekend ending February 2, 429 patients were left waiting between four and 12 hours.
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust recorded 74 long waits, while Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust had 131.
However there have been no reports of people waiting more than 12 hours so far this year.
The Royal Sussex is currently operating at its highest level of alert, black, as it works to keep patients moving through the hospital smoothly.
In a message to staff, chief executive Matthew Kershaw said although the past ten days had been “challenging”, it was not unusual for this time of year.
He said being forced to close two medical wards to new admissions because of a sickness and diarrhoea bug had also added to the pressure.
He said: “In addition, we have had a particularly demanding period in terms of emergency surgical admissions and the winter pressure has basically resulted in more acutely unwell people coming through our doors.
“All of this combined with the horrendous weather, which hinders our ability to move patients around the Royal Sussex site, and pretty much every other hospital in our vicinity being in a similar position, has resulted in everyone having to work much harder to keep the hospital running.”
The NHS in Brighton and Hove and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust were both awarded £2.3 million of Government funding to help them handle pressures this winter.
Work in Brighton and Hove has included opening weekend GP clinics and providing extra transport to take patients from hospital to nursing and rehabilitation homes.