The NHS is facing its worst winter in recent history if it does not receive an immediate cash boost, health chiefs have warned.

NHS Providers, the trade association that represents hospital, mental health, community and ambulance service trusts in England, called for an emergency cash injection of between £200 and £350 million to enable the NHS to manage patient safety risk in the winter months.

The organisation said failure to make the investment will lead to longer waiting times for patients in A&E and other services, and will also put the safety of patients at risk as local trusts have "insufficient capacity" to meet extra expected demand.

A report by NHS Providers has found that the level of planning and support for this winter - led jointly by NHS England and NHS Improvement - is considerably more developed than last year and emergency care performance has been given greater priority.

The report found extra social care funding is helping to increase capacity in about a third of local areas, and this should help to reduce the delays faced by some patients in those areas when they are medically fit to leave hospital but are unable to do so because of a lack of available support in the community.

But the trade association said these improvements are being outweighed by a combination of increasing risks.

It said NHS trusts are not consistently benefitting from the extra £1 billion of social care investment announced in the spring Budget, as planned, and as a result, delayed transfers of care for patients remain "stubbornly high".

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: "Last winter the health service came under pressure as never before.

"At its height, the NHS had to provide 4,500 additional beds a day - equivalent to more than eight extra hospitals.

"Patient safety was compromised as local services struggled to cope with the pressures.

"At times, in some places, the NHS was overwhelmed. We must act now to prevent the situation becoming even worse this winter."

He added: "Trusts are doing all they can to prepare for this winter in the face of increasing demand for their services and competing priorities.

"And they are benefitting from much better national level planning from NHS England and NHS Improvement which is helping to identify and support those local areas that are most at risk.

"But despite this, the overwhelming view of NHS trusts is that without immediate extra funding they will not have sufficient capacity to manage this winter safely."

Pauline Philip, NHS national director for urgent and emergency care, said: "The NHS will face challenges this winter, as it does every year, but as NHS Providers have stated winter planning is more advanced than it was last year and, as they argue, special attention is being paid to areas where pressures are likely to be greatest.

"We are currently in the process of assessing how many extra beds trusts are planning to open over winter and early returns indicate that this will be more than 3,000.

"This is something we will continue to review on the basis of evidence rather than arbitrary estimates.

"If the expectations for reduced Delays Transfers of Care outlined by the Government are achieved, this would free up a further 2,000-3,000 beds over the winter period, on top of the extra 3,000-plus beds that hospitals now say they're going to open."

A spokesman for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Redditch's Alexandra Hospital, said a number of measures have been put in place over recent months to help reduce the amount of time patients spend in A&E departments.

They said: “Along with our health and social care partners we are preparing for another busy winter period and further measures will be put in place as part of this year’s Winter Plan with the aim of improving patient flow though our hospitals wherever possible.

“This includes creating more space in the areas adjacent to the A&E at Worcestershire Royal Hospital – the Medical Assessment Unit and Ambulatory Emergency Care - to allow streaming of patients throughout the day from A&E into acute medicine and primary care."