DORSET County Hospital was one of the only hospitals across the country to meet the target of seeing 95 per cent of accident and emergency patients within four hours.

Despite DCH's success, NHS England - which released the statistics - confirmed that 2017/18 is the worst year for A&E waiting times since records began in 2003/4.

Hospitals across England have struggled with particularly cold weather this winter, including heavy snow, along with high rates of flu and norovirus - but DCH has remained on target.

In March there were a total of 7,922 A&E attendances at DCH - 7,570 of these patients were seen in less than four hours (95.6 per cent).

In both January and February DCH saw 96 per cent of its A&E patients in less than four hours.

While performance would usually be expected to improve in the spring, a higher percentage of patients than ever had to wait four hours or more to be seen upon arrival at A&E departments last month.

More than 1,000 patients at Poole Hospital were left waiting for longer than the target period between arrival and admission, transfer or discharge.

At the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals (RBCH) 780 patients faced a four hour delay or more.

As reported in the Echo, it's been a particularly busy winter at DCH and the pressure has been exacerbated by outbreaks of the ‘winter vomiting bug’ norovirus.

Addressing the A&E waiting times, DCH’s chief executive Patricia Miller, said: “Meeting the emergency access standard during an exceptionally busy winter and the most extreme weather Dorset has seen in years is testament to the dedication and resilience of our amazing staff.

“Teams throughout the hospital worked incredibly hard in challenging circumstances to ensure that patients were seen and treated as quickly and safely as possible.

“Our staff go over and above for our patients every single day and it is that unwavering commitment which allows us to maintain such high standards of care at DCH.

“We would also like to take this opportunity to thank again everyone who supported the hospital during the snow and helped us keep running, we are so grateful.”

Mrs Miller added that during March, DCH was one of only three Trusts in England that achieved the four hour standard. The others were Luton and Dunstable, and North Tees and Hartlepool.