Emergency admissions to accident and emergency departments have hit their highest level since records began, the latest NHS England figures reveal.

Official figures of last week’s performance show that demand on emergency departments across the country has escalated, with 78,131 patients arriving at major A&Es requiring admission compared with 77,742 in May.

While emergency admissions have steadily risen over the past four years, the increase this year has steepened.

Emergency admissions between April and October are up 5.7 per cent compared with the same period in 2013-14. This compares with an 0.8 per cent increase during those months when comparing 2012-13 and 2013-14.

To date, there have been just over 2.1 million emergency admissions to major A&Es - more than 100,000 than at the same point last year.

As a result of the burgeoning demand, A&Es across England have struggled to meet the target to see, treat, admit or discharge 95 per cent of patients within four hours.

Only 89.6 per cent of patients visiting major A&Es were seen within four hours last week.

Demand is also growing on departments that usually treat less urgent patients. Performance across all A&Es is now at 93 per cent.

HSJ reported this month that a government bailout of around £280m would be given to A&E departments on top of the £400m announced earlier in the year.

Clifford Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said shortages of beds and staff had increased pressure on the system.

“My concern is we have a very low bed base compared to our European colleagues, and we have fewer emergency medicine doctors per patient than most other countries.

“We are yet again staring at a situation where ever more is being asked of ever fewer.

“This is why we find it difficult to recruit into emergency medicine and that in turn puts further pressure on the people who remain.

“Given that we’ve had the mildest October I can remember, heavens knows what might happen if we get really cold weather and early outbreaks of Norovirus or seasonal flu.

“Last year we dodged a bullet: people were predicting there would be a much worse winter for the NHS than there actually was, but we can’t carry on constantly admitting more and more patients into the same number of beds. We need either more beds or we need more alternatives to acute hospitals.”