HUGE numbers of patients meant Northampton General Hospital failed to deal with the required number of patients within four hours in the last year.
Department of Health bosses expect NHS hospitals to admit or discharge at least 95 per cent of accident and emergency patients within four hours.
At NGH, figures for 2011/2012 show it almost succeeded in hitting the annual target despite huge volumes of patients. But a poor performance from January to March saw the yearly figure dip to 93 per cent.
Some patients were forced endure marathon waits after initial assessment by nurses, figures for the first three months of 2012 show.
One had to wait almost 19 hours in A&E in February before getting a hospital bed.
Another emergency patients spent just over 18 hours at the hospital in January but was subsequently sent home.
Such waits have previously been partly blamed on lack of hospital beds as existing patients are not ready to be sent home.
And some A&E patients had to wait four times longer than recommended before they were even first assessed.
In January and February, the longest waits were about an hour, compared with the target of under 15 minutes.
A hospital spokesman said the number of patients they have treated in the last two years has sometimes tested the hospital.
Major emergencies since April 2010, for example, have increased by more than seven per cent.
Studies suggest the reasons range from people living longer and having more complex illnesses to people not being registered to a GP and therefore using A&E when they have minor illnesses.
Others have suggested the rising population of Northampton is also a factor.
The hospital said it is investing money in building more A&E cubicles and employing 12 new emergency staff, as well as getting patients home sooner to free up beds, to try to bring the waiting times down.
The spokesman said: “Once fully implemented, these measures will ensure patients receive a sustainable improved emergency care service from NGH.”