New figures, to be published today, suggest thousands of patients may have waited in A&E for over 12 hours for a bed within the first week of December.
The report from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), based on a sample of emergency departments, paints a “shocking” picture over provision, senior doctors warn.
“We are clearly in the worst state we’ve ever been in as we enter the true winter season,” said Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the RCEM.
“Norovirus and the ongoing pensions taxation issue will not have helped, but this decline has been long in the making.
“Many patients are now getting often life changing news while stranded on a trolley in a corridor,” she added.
“This cannot be right, and we must strive to put an end to ‘corridor care’.”
The analysis comes as it emerges a young boy, rushed to Leeds General Infirmary by ambulance with suspected pneumonia, was last week forced to sleep on the floor.
Moved to a clinical room with just a chair, the four-year-old is pictured with an oxygen mask, lying on a pile of coats for comfort. His mother Sarah Williment, 34, said: “The NHS is in crisis.
“There simply aren’t enough beds to cope with the high level of demand.”
The hospital’s chief executive has since apologised, after his mother revealed they had spent over eight hours in A&E, and they weren’t given a bed until 13 hours after arriving.
Dr Yvette Oade, Chief Medical Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said the department had seen its highest attendance last week since April 2016.
“Despite this, our staff are working tirelessly to provide the best possible care under these extreme pressures,” she added, expressing her sincere apologies.
Today’s RCEM report shows that in the first week of December just 69 per cent of patients were seen within four hours, which the college has said equates to the worst performance in the project’s five-year history.
There are concerns that emergency rooms are struggling to cope, Dr Henderson said, and staff are challenged to deliver a standard of care they aspire to.
“Emergency Departments are the NHS safety net and the safety net is buckling,” she added.
The first data from this year’s Winter Flow Project shows that, in the first week of December, over 5,000 patients waited for longer than 12 hours in emergency departments.
This was within a sample of 50 Trusts and Boards across the UK, accounting for around a third of England’s acute bed base.
But while that figure since the start of October was over 38,000 patients, official data from NHS England reports that just 13,025 patients had experienced such waits since 2011/12.
The difference is in the way data is recorded, with the RCEM counting from when a patient arrives in A&E, while the NHS only starts the clock when a decision is made to admit them.
An NHS spokesperson said: “Our doctors, nurses and other staff are pulling out all the stops to look after more and more people, and a particular increase in patients who are older and have more complex illnesses.
“While hospitals will continue to open more beds as needed over the coming weeks, the public also have a role to play going into winter, and can help NHS staff by getting their flu jab if they’re eligible, talking to a pharmacist for expert advice about winter bugs before they get worse, or using the NHS 111 phone or online service if they need medical help fast but aren’t sure what to do.”online service if they need medical help fast but aren’t sure what to do.”