January 2017 was the worst performing month for 13 years in English A&E departments. Record numbers spent more than 4 hours waiting in to be seen in casualty last month, according to leaked figures.

The Department of Health has denied the claim, made this morning (9 February) by the BBC. NHS England has refused to comment on the data.

It is claimed that just 82% of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged from A&E within four hours during the first month of the year.

If true, this represents a significant fall from December when official figures say 85.2% of of patients were seen within four hours. The government's target of 95% has not been met for 17 months.

A multitude of factors including demographic pressures, staffing levels, bed numbers and the knock-on effect of a social care crisis have been blamed for the alarming winter performance.

The BBC also claimed that the number of patients waiting between four and 12 hours for a hospital bed reached record levels in January at 60,000.

The data was reportedly leaked by NHS Improvement, an organisation that supports hospitals in their bid to provide safe, high-quality and cost efficient care.

British Medical Association Chair Dr Mark Porter told the BBC: "The government have so far failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation. The prime minister cannot continue to bury her head in the sand as care continues to worsen.

"The government must urgently look at the long-term funding, capacity and recruitment issues facing the system as a whole if we are to get to grips with the pressures the NHS faces year in, year out, but which are compounded during the winter months."

A spokesman for NHS England said they would not comment on the figures because they were not officially compiled. Comparable official data will become available in one month.

A spokesman from the Department of Health said: "It is irresponsible to publish unverified data and does a disservice to all NHS staff working tirelessly to provide care around the clock."