King George Hospital in Ilford and Queen’s Hospital in Romford are “very much struggling” to cope with Covid and winter pressures due to a lack of staff.
The chief executive of the hospitals’ NHS trust said they are unable to increase bed numbers due to staff shortages and could have to cancel planned operations next month.
Chief executive Matthew Trainer told local councillors this week patients not suffering from heart problems or a serious bleed “are facing long waits” for emergency care.
He added 43 more beds could be opened up “if we can staff them” but that a stroke rehab ward has lost “about a quarter” of its capacity and there is also pressure from elderly patients who cannot be cared for elsewhere.
Redbridge councillor Neil Zammett, a retired hospital manager, warned the hospitals are already “on a knife edge” ahead of the winter’s peak demand and urged the hospital trust to “get more beds open”.
Matthew said the pressure Covid will bring is a “huge variable” but that the hospitals are not cancelling operations at this point.
He added: “Partly because with surgery if we don’t treat people they will turn up at A&E anyway, because some are quite unwell.
“We haven’t yet decided ‘let’s crash surgery and put everything in the emergency pathway’. If it does come to that in January we do have plans in place and will start to stand down planned surgery, and keep everyone safe in that context.”
People who are not fully-vaccinated account for 30 per cent of intensive care beds at the hospital, according to a Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust report before the committee, which is affecting the hospital’s ability to carry out urgent heart operations and transplants.
Government data shows 92 Covid patients were being cared for at the trust on December 14, including 16 on ventilation.
Launched in November, non-Covid patients calling 111 or 999 can now have a remote consultation with an emergency department doctor, to reduce pressure on ambulances and hospitals.