More than 250 extra patients were admitted to hospital every week at the trust which runs Colchester Hospital last year compared to five years ago.

NHS Digital data shows 202,060 patients were admitted to hospitals run by the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust in 2018/19.

It was 14,100 more than during 2014-15 - the equivalent of 271 extra patients every week.

Health experts say there is an “urgent need” for more staff to address a surge in demand in the NHS, driven in part by the increasing number of people living with complex long-term conditions.

The biggest increase at the trust, which was formed after merging the trusts for Ipswich, Colchester, Clacton and Harwich hospitals in July 2018, was among planned admissions. It rose 39 per cent from 28,077 in 2014/15 to 39,080 cases in 2018/19.

Emergency cases rose by 14 per cent over the five-year period.

In 2014/15 there were 68,562 emergency admissions at Colchester and Ipswich. Last year it was 78,485.

Waiting list admissions fell seven per cent from 70,033 in 2014/15 to 64,820 last year.

Across England, hospitals had to deal with almost 24,000 additional admissions every week last year compared to 2014-15.

Richard Murray, chief executive of health think tank the King’s Fund, said the evidence suggested a decades-old policy of reducing the number of hospital beds had “gone too far”.

He said: “Critically, if the NHS is to open more hospital beds it will need more people to staff them, but the NHS is already in the grips of a major workforce crisis.

“A credible plan to increase staff numbers is urgently needed.

“Even then, it will take time to stabilise services and in the meantime patients will unfortunately have to continue waiting longer to receive the care that they need.”

Neill Moloney, managing director for the trust, said: “We are working ever more closely with health and social care partners to manage the rising demand on services.

“Keeping patients safe and making sure they receive care in the right place, be that in hospital or in the community, is paramount. Our emergency department remains the right place for patients with an emergency, and patients with a minor illness or injury can contact their GP in normal surgery hours.”