More than three-quarters of people who arrived at accident and emergency at the Royal Devon University Healthcare Trust were seen within four hours last month, new figures show – surpassing the Government's latest NHS target.

Last year, the Government announced a two-year plan to stabilise NHS services which set a recovery target of 76% of patients being seen within four hours by March this year. The original NHS standard is 95%.

NHS England figures show there were 18,607 visits to A&E at Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in March. Of them, 14,512 were seen within four hours – accounting for 78% of arrivals.

It means the trust met the recovery target but fell short of the NHS standard.

Across England, 74% of patients were seen within four hours. It was an improvement from 71% the month before, but the target was missed.

Figures also show 42,968 emergency admissions waited more than 12 hours in A&E departments from a decision to admit to actually being admitted – down from 44,417 in February.

The number waiting at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission rose slightly, from 139,458 in February to 140,181 in March.

At Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, 867 patients waited longer than four hours, including 40 who were delayed by more than 12 hours.

Sarah Scobie, Nuffield Trust acting director of research, said: "Despite the incentive scheme to improve A&E waits for this month, with the highest performing trusts being rewarded financially, progress has been limited and the long-term strategy for reducing waiting times is unclear.

"There were record high attendances to A&E in March, making it even more challenging for targets to be met, and while there was a slight fall in the proportion of people waiting longer than four hours, it’s concerning to see that the number stuck on trolleys for hours while they wait for a ward space to become available has not improved at all."

About 2.4 million people attended A&E departments across England last month – the busiest month ever and 9% higher than the number of attendances in March 2023.

The overall number of attendances to A&E at Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in March was a rise of 17% on the ​15,849 visits recorded during February, and 25% more than the 14,885 patients seen by the trust's two predecessors in March 2023.

Danielle Jefferies, senior analyst at the King's Fund, said: "As we approach the end of the winter period, it is possible to draw comparisons on how the NHS fared this season compared to last year.

"These latest statistics show that whilst winter pressures may not have dominated headlines as much as last year, the NHS is stuck in a cycle of poor performance."

She added long term solutions lie in bolstering out-of-hospital care and attracting more people to work in the health service.

NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said the latest health service performance data "demonstrates once again how the NHS is working flat out to recover services" despite "enormous demand".

He added "there is further to go" but "it is clear the NHS is treating more patients more quickly and we have announced new ambitions for this financial year to build on the improvements made so far".