Emergency waiting times at hospitals in outer east London are continuing to worsen due to a lack of available GPs, a senior doctor has said.
Patients who need emergency care at King George Hospital and Queen’s Hospital face among the longest waits in London, comparable only with south London’s King’s College Hospital.
The latest figures show four out of ten emergency patients waited more than four hours this August, compared to two out of every ten at Whipps Cross.
Frustrated Redbridge councillors agreed waiting times are “horrendous”, as they quizzed senior doctors from Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which runs both hospitals.
Chief medical officer, Dr Magda Smith, said more patients are going to BHRUT hospitals than before the pandemic and they are “sicker than they were”.
She said: “We’ve seen a significant increase in people using our urgent care and treatment centres because of the capacity, our GP colleagues are working flat out, but capacity is not in the system.
“We had some excellent planning around the pandemic, I’m not so convinced we did a good job planning for the post-pandemic pandemic.
“We input and input and input, and yet there’s confounding factors. We know we’re under-doctored in primary care. We also have GPs being asked to run not just vaccine programmes but also third boost programmes.”
Committee chair councillor Neil Zemmet, said: “The thing is BHRUT is the outlier, its performance is the worst in the country.
“BHRUT is just so absolutely dreadfully bad, we recognise you’re doing your best, what we need is to try and find a way through.”
Dr Smith said the BHRUT has brought in a number of initiatives to reduce waiting times, including Frailty Units to reduce elderly patients coming into emergency wards, specialist doctors going to care homes, same day emergency care to free up beds and investment to create more ward space.
Accepting that the “problems run deep”, she added the hospital also has to run separate wards to lower the risk of Covid-19 transmission in the hospital.
Councillor Beverley Brewer said: “I have to say this is absolutely horrendous, and I think that the presentation underestimates the horrific situation we’re in and our residents are in.
“I don’t want to sit here and be seen as berating you, but BHR’s performance has been the worst in county for year after year after year, and our residents deserve better.”
Councillor Suzanne Nolan said: “I feel as though we’ve been discussing this for twenty years.
“I always get the feeling we’re taking ten paces forward then taking seventeen back.”