Patients face huge waits in Emergency Departments as hospitals head into the “worst-ever” winter, warns BMA

The BMA claims that pressures on services look set to skyrocket in the coming months.

Matt Bodell
7 November 2019
Emergency department waiting room

A third of a million patients could wait on trolleys to be treated.

New analysis from the BMA shows that over one million patients could experience waits of over four hours at emergency departments this winter and almost a third of a million patients could wait on trolleys to be treated.


The report published today warns that NHS is on track to endure its worst-ever winter as analysis of A&E four hour wait times, A&E admissions and attendances, and trolley waits in England suggest that pressures on services look set to skyrocket in the coming months.

Ahead of the upcoming election, the Doctors’ union is calling on the next Government to prioritise the NHS as it warns of a ‘perfect storm’ caused by widespread failure to manage patient need over the worst-ever summer, along with staff shortages, a potentially cold winter and bad flu season, as well as the impact of Brexit.

Summer was “absolutely brutal”.

In its Manifesto for health launched today, the BMA is calling for health spending to be increased by at least 4.1 percent each year to get the NHS “back on a sustainable footing” and for the punitive pension tax system, which is driving senior doctors out of the workforce, to be scrapped.

Speaking to the BMA’s Doctor Magazine, one Midlands emergency medicine consultant said the summer had been “absolutely brutal”.


The consultant added: “It’s really corrosive for staff because they are coming into work with patients lining the corridor – we have been putting patients onto bits of corridor we have never used before – we are actually expanding into new areas. There have been cardiac arrests on the corridor in a number of places.”

Another south-west speciality trainee in emergency medicine who spoke to the Doctor said: “When you stop to think about winter pressures and how demand is going to go in the next three months, I just don’t know what to think. It is not safe – I can hardly bear to think about it.”

‘Enough is enough’.

Commenting on the report and as the BMA publishes its election manifesto, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “Enough is enough. Right across the health service, trusts and GP practices will be bracing themselves for what looks set to be the worst winter the NHS has ever endured.

“Patients should not fear needing hospital care or being able to see their GP, nor should they have to accept that they may spend hours on a trolley in an Emergency Department, waiting to be treated.


“Similarly, staff working in hospitals and GP practices across the country should not be facing the daunting prospect of having to care for those patients in these relentlessly pressurised environments.

“This perfect storm is brewing alongside the upcoming general election and politicians should be paying close attention to the fall out of failure to invest in and support our health service for over a decade.

“Though the need for urgent funding this winter is pressing, this is not just about the short-term fix.

“This is about the current, and any future Government, putting the NHS back on a sustainable footing, with capacity to meet the demands on its services.

“It is about having a sufficient number of beds and facilities, an adequately staffed workforce that is ready and motivated to meet rising pressures, prioritising healthcare prevention, and putting patient care back in the focus.”


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