Visits to A&E at West Hertfordshire Hospitals rose last month to their highest level since before the coronavirus crisis – but attendances were still lower than in July last year.
An increasing number of people have sought help at emergency departments across England following the easing of lockdown measures, which saw A&E visits fall to a record low in April.
NHS England figures show 11,742 patients visited A&E at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust in July.
That was the highest number since February, and a rise of 18 per cent on the 9,991 visits recorded during June.
However, it was still 19 per cent lower than the 14,540 patients seen in July the previous year.
Across England, A&E departments received 1.6 million visits last month. That was an increase of 13 per cent compared to June, but still 30 per cent fewer than the 2.3 million seen during July 2019.
NHS England said significantly lower attendances compared to the previous year was “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response” – suggesting people are still staying away from A&E departments because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The 30 per cent year-on-year drop for July compares with a fall of 33 per cent recorded in June, 42 per cent in May and 57 per cent in April.
NHS guidelines state at least 95 per cent of A&E patients should be seen, treated and admitted or discharged in under four hours.
West Hertfordshire Hospitals saw 86 per cent of visitors in this time, while the average performance across England was 92 per cent.
Dr Nick Scriven, former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “These are worrying times for the NHS given the threat of a second wave of Covid-19 in addition to all of the other pre-existing issues such as bed capacity, staffing, funding and social care provision.
"A&E attendance remains much lower than last year, yet even with the decreased numbers the four-hour target was not met, showing just how hard hit processes have been in this new era."
An NHS spokesman said NHS staff have worked "around the clock" to treat 108,000 people for coronavirus since the pandemic escalated in March.
“Now that we are through the first wave, local NHS staff are restoring non-Covid services, which have the capacity to treat those needing urgent, emergency and other essential care," he said.
"Nobody should be put off seeking help from the NHS when they need it, whether through NHS 111, their GP, a pharmacist or hospital.”