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The number of long A&E waits across the UK has more than doubled in the past four years as hospitals struggle to cope with demand, new analysis shows.
BBC analysis shows that Northern Ireland has the worst performance, although England has seen the fastest deterioration.
Over three million patients who visited UK A&Es waited over four hours in the past 12 months - up by 120 per cent since 2012-13.
The number of visits, however, has only risen by just over seven per cent to 26.9 million.
Doctors and nurses said the findings showed the NHS can no longer cope with what was being asked of it and patients were being put at risk.
Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Staff are working really hard. But we've reached a point where we cannot meet demand.
"Life-threatening cases are prioritised. But a crowded emergency department adds risk. We get delays to assessment, pain relief and antibiotics.”
Janet Davies, general secretary, Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nursing staff in A&E units have been telling us for some time that they are working under intolerable pressure, and that it's hard for them to do more than firefight.”