The chief executive of Ipswich and Colchester hospitals has spoken out on the "awful" condition of hospitals, saying they are "not safe places".

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), said: "We have sadly come to accept the totally unacceptable."

He wants to emphasise to the public that "the worst place you can possibly be in the health system is a hospital, unless you need to be there.

"They are horrible places: the food's rubbish, we don't let you sleep, we don't let you know what's going on."

Mr Hulme has stayed in some "fairly dodgy" hotels in his time, but nowhere where he has been forced to share a bathroom with six people.

"They're awful and we've got to get that message out," he said.

"They're not safe places and unless you really need to be there, you shouldn't be there."

Statistics recorded in December highlight the worsening situation in A&E departments across Suffolk and north Essex.

In December, 356 patients at hospitals run by ESNEFT, including Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to A&E, while a further 9,324 endured a wait of more than four hours.

By contrast, in November, 149 patients waited for 12 hours or more, while 8,165 waited for four hours or more.

The NHS has a target to see 95% of patients admitted to A&E in less than four hours, but at ESNEFT hospitals, just 66% of patients met this target in December - the national average being 65%.

At the ICB meeting, Mr Hulme referred to pre-pandemic conditions in which they would have been close to declaring a major incident should five patients have been without a bed overnight in A&E.

"Now if it's five, we're really pleased. We think it's a good night," he said.

"It's not a good night, it's a dreadful night. And I think that we've lowered the bar and lowered the bar for lots of reasons."

Mr Hulme added that he wondered how to start conversations with his colleagues about what may be deemed as acceptable, "without making it sound like we're asking people to run faster and jump higher."