HUNDREDS of patients visited the A&E department at Poole Hospital on Saturday with the hospital recording its busiest day ever.

With the hospital’s emergency department due to close as part of a planned merger with Royal Bournemouth Hospital, delays of more than eight hours in being treated were reported over the weekend.

Poole Hospital trust’s chief operating officer described the demand as “unprecedented” and thanked staff for their efforts.

On Saturday, 235 patients and 77 ambulances attended A&E in Poole – the busiest day on record – although demand dropped only slightly on Sunday with 229 people treated.

The planned closure of the hospital’s emergency department as part of proposals to merge the trust with Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch has been the most contentious part of the wider Dorset NHS shake-up.

A judicial review against the reform of the county’s health services was defeated earlier this month despite warnings from campaigners that it would put patients’ lives at risk.

Dorset clinical commissioning group said that its plans would “secure better outcomes” for the county’s residents.

Despite its planned closure, Poole Hospital recorded its busiest day on Saturday with many people being forced to wait more than eight hours to be seen.

The trust’s chief operating officer, Mark Mould, said: “We can confirm that the emergency department at Poole Hospital experienced unprecedented demand over the weekend.

“I’d like to place on record my thanks to our staff in the department and across the hospital for the contribution they made to ensuring that we were able to provide safe care.

“I am extremely grateful that we have staff who are dedicated to their job and ensure that they will do whatever it takes to provide the best possible service to our patients, even in the face of operational challenge.”

So far this year the hospital’s A&E department has seen an average of about 200 people through its doors and Mr Mould urged people to consider whether the emergency department is the right place before visiting.