Almost 20,000 patients waited more than four hours to be seen after arriving at Royal Berkshire Health Trust in a single year, figures obtained by the Chronicle show.

And the Trust declared “black alert” – where the number of staff is “insufficient to maintain patient safety” – 58 times across 12 months.

The revelations come on the day of the NHS’s 75th anniversary, and as Royal Berkshire’s chief executive Steve McManus announced that the trust had more than 300 vacant nursing posts.

Royal Berkshire Health Trust, which runs the hospital, declared “red” or “black” alerts almost every week of the year spanning April 2021-March 2022.

At black alert – officially known as Opel level four – there are between just zero and four beds available, the number of staff is deemed “insufficient to maintain patient safety”, and there are “significant delays” in moving patients from ambulances.

Red alert – Opel three – means there are 12 beds or less available, staffing is “sub-optimal” and more than two ambulances have had to queue for longer than 30 minutes to hand over a patient.

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The Royal Berkshire Health Trust declared black alert 58 times in 2021-22, and red alert 116 times.

There were just 10 weeks in the whole year that went without a red or black alert being declared – and only one week between July 6, 2021, and March 31, 2022.

Many of the days not included in records released to the Local Democracy Reporting Service appear to be weekends or public holidays.

The figures also show the number of breaches of the four hour wait limit for patients arriving at hospital – 19,953 in total.

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The Chronicle obtained the figures through a Freedom of Information request asking for the amount of times Royal Berkshire Health Trust operated at Opel levels three or four since 2019.

The Trust did not provide figures for 2020-21 – the height of the pandemic – or for the most recent year, 2022-23. It also had not yet responded to requests for comment before this article went to print.

But speaking on BBC radio Berkshire on Wednesday, July 5, Royal Berkshire chief executive Steve McManus said the Trust has 339 nursing vacancies that it is looking to fill. He said the NHS needed long-term plans to deal with staffing and increased pressures due to an aging population.

He said: “We’ve got around 339 nursing vacancies at the moment that we’re looking to recruit into. We’re still looking through oversees recruitment but also recruitment into the UK to fill the vacancies as much as we can.

“It is a challenge but we have a really diverse workforce at the Berks with a range of different roles.”