The “unprecedented pressure” placed on Buckinghamshire’s healthcare services led NHS chiefs to make an emergency plea last week for residents to use A&E departments only in critical cases – yet calls for a return of Wycombe’s facilities continue to fall on deaf ears.

An urgently held meeting on Wednesday heard Stoke Mandeville’s A&E attendance figures rose by more than 3,600 compared to that period in 2013.

Between April 1 and December 14, 57,770 people visited Stoke Mandeville’s A&E department.

During the same period last year, the hospital saw 54,168 patients in the unit.

While NHS bosses maintain the rise is part of a national trend, with people living longer and needing more complex treatment once admitted to hospital, one would be forgiven for placing some of the blame at the closed door of Wycombe’s A&E unit.

Dr Annet Gamell, chief clinical officer for Chiltern CCG, maintains that Buckinghamshire is “not isolated”, but is representative of the “national situation”.

She said: “The hospitals and ambulance service are coping and the GPs in the community, as well as social services, are coping with this unprecedented pressure on the services.”

She added that services are focusing on those who are very ill, but their efforts are being hindered by those who use A&E departments when it is not an emergency.

Dr Gamell said: “For those who have got injuries that are minor, in our case at Wycombe Minor Injuries Unit, that is much more appropriate for many injuries and some minor illness than A&E is because then that takes the pressure off the services at the hospital who are dealing with seriously ill patients.”

One of the main alternatives Dr Gamell is promoting is the ‘talk before you walk’ scheme, which encourages residents to use the 111 helpline where a member of the support team advises patients what to do and the best facility to go to.

NHS chiefs also urged people to take preventative measures, such as not consuming too much alcohol and giving children the flu vaccination so as to add further relief to the county’s dwindling services.

The ambulance service has also been hit, seeing an increase of nearly 1,000 extra calls this year compared to last.

When asked whether Stoke Mandeville was at critical mass, Dr Tina Kenny, medical director of Bucks Healthcare Trust, said: “We are incredibly busy at the moment, yes.

“We have a large number of patients who have been coming in through the doors for the last week. We have experienced exactly the same pressures as the rest of the country.

“We aren’t any different; we are just reflecting the national picture. But yes, we are incredibly busy now.”

Whether Buckinghamshire is representative of the national picture or not, the fact is becoming increasingly clear that the county’s emergency units cannot cope.

When Wycombe’s A&E unit shut in 2006, thousands opposed the plans and the number of those against the scheme does not seem to have dwindled.

If people are living longer but with more complex conditions, then surely the need for a town the size of Wycombe to have its own emergency department is more critical than ever.

The fact that the Wycombe District Local Plan will see thousands of new homes built in this area alone – much less the rest of Bucks – over the coming years means pressures on our health services are only going to get worse. And if our A&E services are struggling to cope now, it is genuinely alarming to consider how they will fare in a decade’s time.