UP TO 500 people could be dying every week due to NHS delays caused by the winter flu crisis, a top doctor has warned.
More than a dozen ambulance services and NHS Trusts have triggered critical incidents in recent days as flu and Covid increase pressure on the hard-pressed system.
Dr Adrian Boyle, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “We went into this December with the worst-ever performance against our target and the highest-ever occupancy levels in hospital.
“We don’t know about the waiting time figures because they don’t come out for a couple of weeks — I’d be amazed if they’re not the worst ever that we’ve seen.
“We think somewhere between 300 and 500 people are dying as a consequence of delays and problems with urgent and emergency care each week.”
One patient had to wait 99 hours on a gurney for a bed at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital, where one clinician said: “We’re broken and nobody is listening”.
Cancer patient Keith Royles, 85, lay on his patio in the rain for seven hours after breaking his hip while cutting his lawn.
His family, who tried to keep him dry with a makeshift shelter, said his house in Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire, was directly opposite the local hospital — but an ambulance could not be summoned.
Retired postmistress Marie Grubb, 82, from Wadebridge, Cornwall, had to wait 31 hours for an ambulance after breaking her hip in a fall.
And three-year-old Heidi Hook, suffering from scarlet fever and croup, had to sleep on plastic chairs while waiting hours to be seen at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.
NHS figures show in total nearly 38,000 patients waited more than 12 hours in A&E in November for a decision to be made on which hospital department they should be sent — up a shocking 355 per cent since the same time last year.
Data published on Friday showed each day there were 3,746 patients in hospital with flu, including 267 in intensive care. A month the total was 520.
Dr Boyle warned: “If you look at the graphs, they all are going the wrong way.
“We need to increase our capacity within our hospitals, we need to make sure that there are alternative ways so that people aren’t all just funnelled into the ambulance service and emergency department.
“We cannot continue like this — it is unsafe and it is undignified.” Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said the pressure was equivalent to the early stages of the pandemic.
She said: “We’ve still got that coming through the door but then we’ve also got the legacy of Covid — a worn-out workforce. We’ve got even higher levels of vacancies, up to 133,000 across the NHS now.”
Nurses will strike again on January 18 and 19, with ambulance workers walking out on January 11 and 23 in a row over pay and conditions.
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