THE situation being faced by Whiston Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department – as detailed in a recent Star front page – is another example of the seemingly intolerable pressure being faced by the NHS.

The numbers going through the doors are startling – since the new hospital opened in 2009 admissions have gone up by 26,000 a year. Nurses and doctors are seeing twice the number of patients arriving per hour as what hospital directors believe is realistic.

The hospital is having to propose an extension to A&E in an attempt to meet demand – but even that may not be enough in the years ahead. It’s a big concern and those worries are magnified when you consider the ambitious housebuilding plans in St Helens and Knowsley.

Campaign groups opposed to increased housing development often raise the issue about how public services will cope with an upsurge in population – and it is a valid point.

The fact we will also see a growing ageing population, with increasingly complex health needs, will also add further strain.

So what do we do? Education is clearly important – and there are plenty of patients who attend the department unnecessarily. There are some who would like to see an A&E department at St Helens Hospital – but the costs and the fact that so many acute services are based at Whiston would make this a non-starter. But could the NHS look at creating a minor injuries unit at the St Helens Hospital site (in addition to the walk-in at the Millennium Centre) for some of the less serious conditions?

With the suggestion that A&E at Whiston should be rebranded as the Emergency Department, this could potentially present a balance of services for the future.

The big question of course would be: How would it be funded?