Under the current target for England, 95 per cent of patients are expected to be seen within four hours / Getty Images

Figures released today show emergency units are failing to see 95 per cent of patients within four-hour target 

Waiting times in NHS accident and emergency (A&E) departments across England have failed to meet Government targets, with new figures showing the worst quarterly result in a decade.

Under the current target for England, 95 per cent of patients are expected to be seen within four hours.

But data covering the quarter running from October to December shows this four-hour target has been missed.

The new figures released by NHS England show just 92.6 per cent of patients are being seen within four hours.

Jeremy Hunt acknowledged there is a "huge amount of pressure" on the NHS in England and hospital bosses feel they are "running just to keep still" to cope with rising demand ahead of the figures.

Mr Hunt told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "There is a huge amount of pressure, that's absolutely clear."

But he added: "I think we also have to recognise, despite the particular pressures, despite the major incidents - and you always get some major incidents at this time of year - that the NHS is continuing to see in A&E departments nine out of 10 people within the four-hour target.

"That is actually better than any other country in the world that measures these things."

Speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain before the data was released, Health Minister Norman Lamb admitted the NHS "is not meeting" its targets and said Britain's ageing population means hospitals are having to treat older patients with chronic conditions.

He said: "We rightly have the toughest targets in the developed world. We are not meeting them.

"We are living longer, the pressures of people living with chronic conditions. We hear lots of reports from A&E departments of older people particularly turning up more ill than they have in the past."

The Liberal Democrat minister called for all political parties to work together and come up with a plan to secure the long-term funding of the NHS.

His comments come amid growing pressure on hospitals with a number declaring "major incidents" in recent days because of A&E pressures.

Last month, Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS in England admitted accident and emergency departments were under pressure.

Speaking at a conference in London, Sir Bruce Keogh said: "The system is creaking, it is under pressure at the moment.

"A&Es are having to address increasing demand, the ambulance services are struggling in many parts of the country and we have a number of issues to deal with, which we are tackling."

Additional reporting by PA

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