“DON’T break us” – that is the warning from senior medics at Basingstoke hospital, following a huge rise in the number of patients flooding through the doors of the emergency department.

The hospital, in Aldermaston Road, has seen an increase of nearly 25 per cent in the last year, putting pressure on staff as they deal with thousands of people visiting the department each month. With patient numbers potentially set to increase further, senior medics are sending out the warning not to push them to breaking point.

Dr Howard Simpson, clinical director of unscheduled care, said: “I don’t believe patient numbers have peaked yet.

“We are working hard to keep patients safe and we are more than happy to help whenever it is needed. But use us wisely – don’t break us.”

Last year, the hospital’s emergency department saw an average of just under 4,000 patients each month. This year, the figure is around 5,000.

The huge rise in patient numbers is thought to be due to a combination of factors, including the ever-increasing elderly population and the new homes built in the borough.

The department is coping well with the increase thanks to the introduction of GPs into the department and the training of four new key members of staff.

They are now hitting Government targets, despite Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT), which runs Basingstoke hospital, having previously been named as one of the worst in the country for long patient waiting times.

As previously reported in The Gazette, GPs began working side-by-side with casualty doctors last November.

Now, 17 per cent of all those admitted are seen by GPs.

The hospital has also increased the number of emergency nurse practitioners from seven to 11, by training existing staff so they can triage, diagnose and treat patients who don’t necessarily need to see a doctor.

Around 42 per cent of patients attending the emergency department are seen by emergency nurse practitioners.

These measures have seen the average time it takes for a patient to be seen by a clinician, and given a plan, drop from 57 minutes to 28 minutes and the time to triage drop from 19 minutes to just three minutes.

It has also doubled the amount of trolley space, thanks to patients being seen by front-of-house GPs.

Paul Barton, lead emergency nurse practitioner, said: “The collaboration in the last six months with other organisations – the clinical commissioning group and North Hampshire Urgent Care – has meant we have come up with innovative ways of dealing with challenges.

“It is working well and we are all working hard.”

Despite these successes, the department will inevitably struggle if patient numbers continue to rise dramatically.

Dr Simpson said: “We are not an infinite resource. I would advise anyone who is unsure where they should go to contact 111.

“It is not a perfect system, but they are trying hard to make sure they direct you to the right place. The 111 number should be the first tool to use.”