A new £2.8million short-stay ward has been set up to alleviate pressure on an A&E department which is failing to meet targets for waiting times.

The 20-bed ward was completed in just ten weeks at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, where this week one in every 10 patients was not seen within the required four hours.

A total of 57 ambulances were also made to queue outside the hospital and 190 patients had to wait more than four hours to be admitted.

Clare Morris, chief officer at West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said the hospital is working hard to meet the winter surge in demand for treatment.

She said: “The CCG, social care, community services and the hospital have put a number of measures in place to ensure we are able to meet the demand for services and local GPs and others have been working to help make sure that, wherever possible, patients are kept well enough not to need admission.

"Our local health system is really strong and pulling together is really paying off."

The new ward enables patients to be tested and receive treatment without being admitted to A&E.

It is also hoped that it will free up beds and resources for those who need more intensive hospital care.