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Winter set to be worst ever for A&E waits, say health leaders

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The NHS is facing the worst winter for A&E waits on record, as hospitals are being “pressurised like never before”, health leaders have warned.

As reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine says it believes this will have been the worst December for hospital bed occupancy and emergency care delays.

The warning comes as hospitals face soaring demand driven by winter infections like flu, strep A and COVID.

The government says it is “working tirelessly” to ensure patient care.

A number of NHS trusts have declared critical incidents in recent days, signalling they are unable to function as normal due to extraordinary pressure.

The president of the RCEM, Dr Adrian Boyle, told the BBC that hospitals were “too full” and the situation was “much worse than in previous years.”

Ambulances waiting outside hospitals was the “most obvious marker” of this, Dr Boyle told Radio 4’s Today programme.

In November, around 37,837 people waited more than 12 hours in A&E for a decision to be admitted to a hospital department, according to data from NHS England.

This was more than triple the equivalent figure for November 2021, when an estimated 10,646 waited longer than 12 hours.

In separate remarks to the PA news agency, Dr Boyle said he “would not be at all surprised” if December proved to be the worst month on record for hospital occupancy rates.

Over 90 per cent of senior doctors reported there had been people waiting in their emergency department for more than 24 hours last week, he added.

Dr Boyle remarked: “The gallows joke about this is now that 24 hours in A&E is not a documentary, it’s a way of life.”

He noted that the health service had been stretched further by a “staff retention crisis”, as well as recent nurse and ambulance worker strikes and a “demand shock” caused by winter infections.

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