Eight thousand patients waited more than four hours at King’s College Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’ emergency departments throughout August, according to NHS data published last month.
That equates to one in four patients attending Guy’s and St Thomas’ emergency department, and forty per cent of patients presenting at King’s.
The new figures come as the NHS reports a drop of 30.3 per cent in attendance in A&E departments in England for 2020-21.
“The waiting times fire a warning shot of the even more intense pressures that hospitals could be under this winter,” she explained.
“The waiting times are not a reflection on the incredibly hardworking and dedicated staff at London’s hospitals, but rather years of underinvestment and a continued failure by the government to address vacancy rates within the NHS workforce.
“I want to see some clarity from the government on how much funding is going to be allocated to ensuring our hospitals will be able to cope in the difficult months ahead.”
The government recently announced that as part of its ‘COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan’, £5.4 billion will be invested into the NHS over the next six months.
It has not been specified how much of this funding will be allocated to support hospitals over the winter.
This also comes as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned that daily COVID-19 hospitalisations could reach 7,000 per day in England, unless the government implements drastic measures.
These figures in some ways are surprising, given the record-breaking drop in attendance at A&E departments.
Attendance had risen every year since 2011-12, but new NHS Digital stats show that this year there has been a significant drop in attendance across all age groups.
This is likely due to lockdown measures. The sharpest falls in attendance were seen in April-June 2020 and December 2020-February 2021. These were both times when the country was under lockdown.
However, as the country re-adjusts to the loss of lockdown measures, the long waiting times draw doubt over whether the NHS is prepared for the coming winter.
Until plans to scrap them were announced in May, the operational standard set by the NHS for A&E waiting times was that 95 per cent of patients should be seen within four hours of their arrival at the department.
The issue may be partly to do with nurse vacancies. NHS data shows that between June and August 2021, nursing vacancies in London increased by eleven per cent to reach almost 5,000 in total.
While this doesn’t indicate how many of those vacancies were filled by temporary staff, it offers a possible explanation for the long waiting times seen in both Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College hospitals.