SOUTH Essex’s ageing population is putting unexpected strain on overstretched staff in Basildon Hospital ’s accident and emergency department.

Hospital managers say as many patients have visited the department this summer as would normally do during the busiest winter periods.

Many of the patients are aged 70 or older and are coming in seriously ill.

The figures were published in the face of an A&E staffing crisis, highlighted by urgent orders from a Government watchdog to hire more staff. The Care Quality Commission made the instruction in February, yet a few months later, a baby died in A&E, after waiting 55 minutes to be seen.

The summer months are usually the department’s quietest time, but an influx of visitors during the Olympics is expected to further increase the number of patients needing to be seen.

The hospital has seen a steady increase in admissions over the past five months – July saw a 7.5 per cent incease on July 2011.

Hospital chief executive Alan Whittle told the most recent hospital board meeting census returns suggested the number of older people in the area was rising dramatically.

The urgent need to hire more A&E staff will now to be discussed at a board meeting, in September.

Board chairman Ian Lauder said: “You do not need to be a nuclear physicist to work out the number of over-seventies in our three local authority areas is going up substantially.

“We need to look at what is coming round the corner – an increase in elderly patients, who are likely to be more ill. We have ongoing staffing requirements in A&E.”

Trevor Parks, a non-executive director at the hospital, pointed out as the population got sicker, health budgets ought to be increasing, when in fact, the NHS was facing widespread cuts.

The board also heard the number of reports of serious bed sores remained a problem – something else linked to the number of older people being admitted.

With so many patients now “much sicker”, director of nursing Diane Sarker explained many of these sores were unavoidable as patients could not easily be moved.