EXTRA pressure on emergency departments has seen waiting times reach their worst levels for a decade, according to a new report by the King's Fund charity.
Patients receiving treatment within four hours dropped below 95 per cent at Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General Hospitals in December.
A nursing director has been drafted in to help bring waiting times back to acceptable levels.
It was the first time since April the Hospitals Trust had failed to deliver the required standard with delays blamed on a lack of beds and waiting times to be assessed in A&E.
Trust chief executive Dr Frank Harsent said winter pressures were also partly responsible.
"Over the winter period we have been experiencing increased demand for our services," he said.
"We appreciate this can be frustrating for those with minor injuries who are asked to wait for treatment in our Emergency Departments.
"Throughout this time, we have continued to provide a high standard of treatment and urgent cases have been dealt with quickly.
"However the increases in the number of people in the county requiring less urgent care has had some impact on our waiting times.
"We have experienced some delays over the winter period, but our target is to see 95 per cent of patients within four hours and our performance year to date is 95.5 per cent.
"Hospitals across the South West have been experiencing similar pressures and we constantly review trends and work with our partners across the county to help transfer medically-fit patients from our acute hospital to community services or to home if appropriate."
In the last three months of 2012, 232,000 patients waited more than four hours in A&E in the UK – up 38 per cent over the previous quarter.
Experts at The King's Fund said between October and December the proportion of patients waiting more than four hours was at its highest level since 2003.
Researchers said as financial pressures continue to "bite hard" on the health service there was growing pressure on emergency care.
So-called "trolley waits" – where A&E patients needing to be admitted to hospital have to wait before they are given a bed – were also at their highest rate since the same period in 2003.
County hospital staff are calling on people to only attend A&E in an emergency.
Live waiting times can be viewed at www.gloshospitals.nhs.uk.