WAITING times are being slashed at Frimley Park Hospital's accident and emergency department.

Patients are being treated more quickly thanks to the opening of a Medical Assessment Unit.

The new facility is treating people with heart and chest problems who previously had to join the accident and emergency queue.

At present the unit is a temporary 10-bed facility situated in the main medical ward.

By the end of the summer it is due to move to a permanent £2-million building being constructed behind the accident and emergency unit.

The new unit will have space for up to 36 non-surgical patients to be assessed at one time.

Hospital chiefs intend to have the facility fully operational by next winter.

A hospital spokesman said: "We are getting an increasing number of heart and chest patients who require monitoring and assessment by specialist doctors."

They often had to wait several hours in the accident and emergency department for an accurate diagnosis to determine if they needed to be admitted to a ward.

"This was having a major impact on accident and emergency waiting times," he said.

In a further improvement, a £300,000 extension to the accident and emergency department is due to open next month.

This will increase the capacity for assessing and treating "walking wounded" patients.