The man in charge of the hospital's A&E department is confident his team can get back up to speed following another damning assessment.

In April last year Princess Alexandra's emergency department was named as the slowest in the country for 2017/18, with only 70 per cent of patients seen within four hours.

A year on and little seems to have changed at the Harlow hospital, the 67 per cent of people seen by a doctor within the time limit in January this year almost exactly the same as 12 months previously.

While the town's affection for its hospital is fierce - as response to a Guardian social media request for experiences of the A&E department underlined - its underachieving emergency department remains a cause for concern.

The man responsible for getting it back on track and ensuring the NHS's 95 per cent seen within four hours target is hit is Curtis Emordi (below), the department's clinical lead and consultant.

When asked whether the confines of a hospital built in the 1960s made reaching such a target possible, Dr Emordi said: "We are confident we can meet our target, even though this hospital was built to accommodate 40,000 to 60,000 people.

"It now serves 110,000."

Epping Forest Guardian:

Although he is fully supportive of his colleagues' abilities, the 49-year-old is candid about the problems facing Princess Alexandra's A&E.

"It is not one thing, the problem is multi-faceted," he explained.

"There is the problem of flow for example. If we have people in A&E and there is no where else for them to go, they stay with us.

"Everybody is backed up which delays when people can see us.

"We spend a lot of time trying to make space. 85 per cent is a good capacity rate for a hospital. We run at 99 or 100.

"When I start work more than half the people in A&E should be somewhere else."

Another problem is staffing.

A combination of factors including the withdrawal of nurses' bursaries and the pull of the capital means the emergency department is regularly understaffed.

Dr Emordi added: "We are pushing to hire more staff, but we are competing with London hospitals.

"We know that a lot of people move on from here to London after a couple of years.

"Our employment rate is about 20 per cent lower than we'd like in terms of medical staff.

"There should be around 15 nurses on A&E, but usually we have about 10. That is before illness."

Epping Forest Guardian:

While the trust's partial solution to the flow and staffing problems is to train nurses to become practitioners, allowing them to alleviate doctors of more of their duties, a lack of beds elsewhere in the hospital, overstretched assessment areas and structural problems in the town mean the waiting problems will likely persist.

"If you don't supply people with alternatives they will use A&E, because it is the only place they can come," he continued.

"We have an out of hours GP on site and the hub at weekends, but we sit between two clinical commissioning groups.

"Turning people away doesn't help because a lot of their GPs are in other areas."

As difficult as looking after the town's seriously injured and sick in such circumstances may be, Dr Emordi is not overwhelmed by the challenge.

Although he would not disclose how many hours he works a week, he does find time to take swimming lessons, jog and go on bike rides, and is aided by the emotional support of a wife and two children, his colleagues and the town's MP, Robert Halfon.

Mr Halfon said: "The people that run that place deserve the first place in heaven, if it exists. They are incredible. I don't know how they do it.

"I have been there many times. We have got one of the highest rates of visits to A&E per head of anywhere in the country.

"No one can quite work out why Harlow residents visit it a lot.

"The hospital is not fit for purpose. Until we get a new hospital that is big enough there will continue to be issues."