ACCIDENT and emergency attendances at Barnsley Hospital for children younger than one year old are at their highest level in a decade, according to worrying new figures.

The NHS statistics show there were 3,230 attendances involving children under one year old at Barnsley’s accident and emergency department in 2019/20.

The rate of attendances - 1,227.7 per 1,000 children - is the highest since records began in 2010 when it was just 721.9.

National rates of attendances in accident and emergency departments for young infants across the country have also soared in that time, from 637.4, to 1,000.1.

Barnsley’s most recent rate is the second-highest in Yorkshire and the Humber after Sheffield’s 1,409.7 per 1,000.

The new statistics come as hospital bosses urged people to stay away from the emergency department unless they have ‘genuine emergencies’ - with NHS figures showing while numbers of people through the doors rose sharply last month, more than a third were left waiting for longer than the four-hour standard.

Of 9,021 people seen in March, 3,176 - 35.2 per cent - spent more than four hours from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge.

A year earlier, 1,420 of 8,155 - 17.3 per cent - waited for four hours.

A spokesperson for Barnsley Hospital said: “We’re really happy to see people when they’re very unwell, that’s what we are here for.

“However, we get a lot of people coming to Barnsley Hospital because they don’t think they have a choice of going somewhere else.

“Whilst some of our cases are genuine emergencies and we would want these to continue to come, some could be seen or treated more appropriately elsewhere.

“It’s also important to access the right healthcare early - don’t wait until it becomes an emergency.

“Calling NHS 111 can help signpost people to the right care and where they need to be.”

In terms of emergency admissions - not specifically those going through A and E - among children younger than one, Barnsley’s rate of 362.7 per 1,000 is the third-highest in the region and the 25th-highest nationally.

That means in the year 2020/21 there were 960 emergency admissions for children younger than one, although that is 135 fewer than the previous year in line with national and regional figures falling dramatically.

Most emergency admissions for children up to four years old were for falls, injuries from inanimate objects or forces such as noise or explosions, accidental poisoning and exposure to heat or burns.

Barnsley has the sixth-highest rate of emergency admissions for under-18s in the region, at 50 per 1,000.

The rate of A and E attendances among under-18s has also grown in recent years and, despite a slight drop from the previous year’s figure of 475 per 1,000, the latest figure of 470 means there were 23,995 admissions to Barnsley’s emergency department involving children throughout the year.

That is more than 2,000 more attendances than in 2011/12, while the rate means Barnsley is fourth-highest in Yorkshire and the Humber, below Wakefield, Sheffield and Kingston-upon-Hull.

The borough also has the highest rate of admissions for infants who are younger than 14 days old in Yorkshire and the Humber - and the eighth-highest in the country - at 133.9 per 1,000.