HOSPITAL bosses have warned that record numbers turning up at A&E could be ‘the new normal’ after an unprecedented surge over spring.

Over the course of May an average of 441 people attended emergency departments at the John Radcliffe and Horton General hospitals every day –about two per cent higher than this time last year.

An extra 1,500 people attended A&E in May than throughout April.

Frontline staff have said their day-to-day experience is ‘like winter’– when A&E admissions typically peak

In fact numbers have risen since last winter, when the average was only about 400.

At a meeting of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust yesterday, clinical services director Paul Brennan warned numbers could continue to rise.

He said: “We have never seen this level of emergency activity coming through the trust at this time of year.

“When the next report comes to the board I know what we’ll see for June, and I’m pretty sure I know what we will see for July.

“It is challenging. We need to recognise the amount of pressure that staff are under having to keep up with this, and it’s important we demonstrate support to the teams.”

Just 86.4 per cent of people were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of arrival, down from 88.8 per cent in April and against a national target of 95 per cent.

Since late April the trust has also seen a high degree of bed occupancy, with an average of 92 per cent of general and acute beds taken up at midnight during May.

Vice-chairman Geoff Salt said he had visited the Horton General Hospital in Banbury on Monday and said it had been a ‘record day’ for attendances that had followed a record weekend.

He added: “In sweltering conditions, staff were saying it was like winter.

“Until some system pulls together, we have got to find a way of keeping up with this as the new normal and expect it to be going up every year.”

Statistics on A&E attendances across the NHS are due to be published today and are likely to show a similar picture across the board.

In April attendances were four per cent higher than in 2016.

Last month Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, the trade association for NHS acute and ambulance trusts, said there had been ‘no respite for the NHS’ from the pressing demand faced over winter.

The body has argued that pressures on GP services had led to people turning to A&E as a ‘viable alternative’, while the under-funding of social care was keeping older patients in hospital.

Yesterday OUH re-iterated its call for people to only attend A&E when necessary.

Spokesman Kaelum Nevile said: “During June and July we have experienced a record level of attendances. Patients should always carefully consider alternative options.”