Latest figures for A&E winter waiting time targets in England reveal that performance this year is worse than last and the worst since April 2013.

Hospitals in England are meant to see 95% of patients in A&E within four hours, but during the first week of December, the figure was 91.8%.

A&E units expect a rise in demand during winter months due to an increase in the number of people affected by winter flu and viruses, however, this year demand is higher than usual. Visits to A&E hit 436,000 last week, almost 30,000 more than the first week of December in 2013.

The number of patients who needed to be admitted to hospital after visiting A&E reached 110,000 which is one of the highest figures ever recorded and also indicates that the type of cases A&E staff are handling are more complex and take longer to deal with.

A new social media campaign launched by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), is aiming to encourage people to think ahead to avoid minor accidents and reduce the pressure on emergency services during the festive period. The campaign encourages people to contribute their tips for preventing accidents via Twitter using the hashtag #littlethings.

Janet Allan, a senior clinical negligence solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Nottingham office, said: “The demands on accident and emergency services intensify significantly during winter months, piling pressure on already overstretched staff.

“This year, A&E departments are facing huge challenges with stretched budgets at a time of increases in demand and that is creating heightened pressures. Worryingly an unprecedented number of patients are needing to be admitted to hospital after attending A&E.

“The government has put some extra money into A&E services but it is clearly not enough to ease the pressure on staff and services. The government needs to deal with the short term but also take a strategic view so it’s not just constant sticking plaster solutions.

“The safety campaign launched by RoSPA will help to raise awareness of things that can be done to prevent the volume of people attending A&E, but it is ultimately the government’s responsibility to safeguard the well-being of staff and patients during this notoriously difficult and busy time of year.”