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Hospital crowding fears: Experts warn NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed again


Hospitals in UK face returning to January’s occupancy levels, when emergency calls were left waiting for hours. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said the easing of lockdown restrictions poses a risk to hospitals and warned that patient lives could be risked if issues linked to high demand are not corrected.

A&E consultant Dr Boyle told the Independent: “The idea that we go back to normal is simply unconscionable. It’s actually worse than before in terms of what this will mean for crowding.”

The expert pointed out that the number of beds had to be cut in a bid to limit the transmission of coronavirus within departments.

Dr Boyle added: “We were in a terrible state pre-pandemic, the winter before the pandemic was the worst on record since we started collecting four-hour target performance.

“We are worried as lockdown eases we’re going to see an increase in demand, and still a fairly constrained and inflexible bed base.”

Dr Boyle explained that overcrowding in hospital wards meant some patients had to receive treatment inside the ambulance, preventing the vehicle from assisting other 999 callers.

The consultant added: “It’s a basic function of an emergency department to be able to offload patients from ambulances.

“If an ambulance can’t offload, the person in an ambulance is not getting appropriate timely care because of the limits to how much you can do in the back of an ambulance. You’ve also got the fact that you’re taking an ambulance off the road, so you’re going to increase the times that serious cases get responded to, so there’s a second victim from that.”

The warning comes after a group of leading experts raised concerts the lifting of lockdown rules may come too soon.


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