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The full extent of the winter crisis in the NHS was revealed today when figures showed A&E performance in January was the worst ever recorded for any month.

NHS England said 88.7 per cent of patients were treated within four hours – the lowest figure since monthly statistics began in August 2010. The previous month was the second worst December on record, when 91 per cent were treated. The target is 95 per cent.

The worst A&E performance in London was at North Middlesex hospital, in Edmonton, which saw only 66.4 per cent of patients within four hours. Last month it broadcast a tannoy message telling patients who were not seriously ill to go home.

Only two out of 18 London trusts hit the target – Chelsea and Westminster, and Homerton.

Today’s statistics also revealed soaring demand for emergency care. A total of 1,906,920 people attended A&Es in England in January – 10.1 per cent more than in January 2015.

Almost 485,000 patients were so ill that they had to be admitted to a ward, 4.6 per cent more than in January 2015. Medics attribute the huge rise in demand to the ageing population, where more elderly patients with a range of conditions need to be found a hospital bed, often for infections and respiratory illnesses.

NHS England praised  frontline A&E staff for doing a “fantastic job” in extraordinary circumstances.

Richard Barker, interim national director, said: “We saw record demands on our frontline services in January with 1.9 million people walking through the doors of A&E.

“Against this backdrop it’s not surprising hospitals saw a dip in their A&E performance, and it is a credit to all those working in emergency care that we are still admitting, treating and discharging almost nine out of 10 patients within four hours. Winter pressures have come later this year with a sustained cold period and an increase in seasonal infections.”

There was a huge backlog of patients unable to be discharged because of a lack of beds elsewhere, either in a “step down” unit, care home or in sheltered accommodation. There were 159,089 “delayed transfers of care” in January, almost 8,700 more than a year earlier.

At midnight on January 28, 5,799 patients were medically fit to leave hospital but could not be discharged.

The figures were the eight month in arow where ambulance services had failed to reach 75 per cent of the most serious 999 calls within eight minutes. The London Ambulance Service reached 67.4 per cent of “Red 1” calls within the target.

Today’s data also shows unprecedented demand on the much-criticsed NHS 111 non-emergency helpline. It received 1,366,094 calls, almost 200,000 more calls than in January 2015.

Of these, 127,601 resulted in an ambulance being dispatched, and in 84,382 cases the caller was advised to attend A&E – both record figures.