mergency departments across south west London are facing record-breaking demand amid sizzling temperatures as a junior doctors’ strike threatens to cripple services even further.
More visits were made to St George’s, Epsom and St Helier’s accident and emergency departments (A&Es) on Monday than ever before, the NHS has said, with a total of 1,250 people across the three departments.
The figures are a huge spike compared to a typical day of about 800 attendances for the departments.
Kingston and Croydon University hospitals are also experiencing record-breaking demand.
More than 530 people visited Kingston’s emergency department on Monday and 622 at Croydon – 16 per cent higher than the Croydon A&Es previous busiest summer day on June 17, 2021.
It comes just hours before hundreds of junior doctors across England are set to launch a three day strike on Wednesday.
Dr Richard Jennings, Group Chief Medical Officer at St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group, said: “We have never been busier, and with the upcoming strikes it’s going to be a very challenging week.
“We’re here, as always, for those who need us. But now more than ever, we need the public’s support in those cases where it is not an emergency. NHS 111 online should be your first port of call in these instances, as it can direct you to where you need to go.”
Members of the British Medical Association and Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association are set to strike for 72 hours from 7am on Wednesday in the ongoing dispute over pay.
Senior doctors and nurses will be drafted in to cover urgent and emergency care work usually undertaken by junior doctors, with thousands of routine procedures already rescheduled as a result.
Patients will be contacted directly if their appointments are rescheduled, and should continue to visit as normal unless they hear otherwise.
A similar walkout by junior doctors in April saw 196,000 hospital appointments and pre-planned operations rescheduled.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said the NHS will face “enormous” disruption.
The strikes coincide with hot temperatures across the country, with the UK Health Security and the Met Office extending their heat-health alert on Monday.
A high of 27C is forecast for London on Wednesday, and temperatures are to remain in the mid-20s for the rest of the week.
When temperatures rise more people, especially those in high-risk groups, can suffer from heat exhaustion and dehydration, as well as sunburn.
The pollen count has also been very high, and there has been a surge in people visiting EDs with shortness of breath, the NHS said.
A total of 7,751 calls were made to London Ambulance Service on Monday – including double the number suffering from breathing problems.
More than 500 patients have been found collapsed after fainting or gasping for breath due to allergic reactions to “very high” pollen levels.
Dr Jennings added: “This weather has undoubtedly contributed to the rise in people – some who are vulnerable and very sick – coming to our emergency departments.
“Help us to prioritise care for those need it the most, and use our services wisely.”
The strike was announced after talks between the British Medical Association and the Government broke down in May.
Last week Health Secretary Steve Barclay said there needs to be “movement on both sides” amid the dispute.
He insisted the Government’s door remains open, but accused the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee of refusing to budge from its 35 per cent pay demand, despite bringing an intermediary to negotiations.
Prof Powis said: “The NHS has been preparing extensively for this next set of strikes, but we know that – with the sheer number of appointments that need to be rescheduled – it will have an enormous impact on routine care for patients and on the waiting list, as procedures can take time to rearrange with multiple teams involved.
“As we enter the seventh month of industrial action across the NHS, and as this action becomes more frequent, we are now seeing an extraordinary cumulative impact on our services and crucially on our staff, who continue to go above and beyond to maintain safe patient services during this challenging period.”
The strike is due to end at 7am on Saturday.