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The British Medical Association has warned that more than a million patients could face long waits in A&E as the NHS is predicted to endure its ‘worst-ever’ winter.
A worst-case scenario, based on previous NHS data, suggests millions of patients could experience waits in excess of four hours at emergency departments, with projections also warning that almost a third of a million patients could also end up on trolleys as they wait for treatment.
Unlike previous years, there has been no summer respite from high levels of patient demand. Typically, the NHS uses the summer months to catch its breath but this year there was simply no let-up. However, many of the biggest hospitals reported record-breaking numbers of patients turning up at A&E in July and August, with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust declaring a ‘black alert’ incident in July – the most serious level of pressure normally reserved for the depths of winter.
The BMA also says that there is strong evidence emerging that doctors feel that they are unable to pick up additional shifts for fear of dramatically increasing their tax bill, while planning for Brexit is likely to divert trusts’ focus at a time when they need to be entirely focused on winter.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA, 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."
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, commented: “Doctors on the frontline are confirming what patients are telling us every day – the NHS is in crisis under the Tories, and you can’t trust anything they say. Already waiting lists are at 4.4 million and in the last year, shamefully over 600,000 patients languished on trolleys in corridors not able to get a bed after Tory bed cuts of over 15,000. Ministers should apologise to every patient for this coming winter of misery.
“With experts predicting we are heading into one of the worst winters ever, our NHS needs real change. More of the same under the Tories means more patients waiting on trolleys and waiting longer for vital treatment. Labour will fully fund the NHS and ensure patients receive the quality care they deserve.”