Sick people are queuing for up to twelve hours to see a doctor at some of Britain’s busiest hospitals.
Already nearly 1.4 million patients have attended struggling A&E units in England during May according to data published last week by The Royal College of Emergency Medicine.
That’s the second highest figure since the 1980s. The picture in Wales is similar.
Swansea couple Gerald and Patricia Trengrove arrived at Morriston hospital A&E at 12 noon last Sunday. After being triaged they were told the wait to see a doctor would likely be five hours.
But they were eventually seen at midnight—12 hours after they’d arrived.
“We’ve become very anxious,” said Pat. “The NHS has been brilliant in the past. I just can’t understand how it has got like this.”
Another patient had arrived at 2pm but was only seen by a doctor at 4am the next day.
“It was difficult to count the number of staff on duty but it was confirmed to me that there were just three doctors covering A&E,” they said.
In Manchester, patients were faced with ten-hour waits and had to queue outside the city’s Royal Infirmary last week.
One woman who had recently given birth was dealing with an injury to her caesarean‑section wound.
“The queue was epically long, there was nobody to speak to, no shelter, absolutely nothing,” a family member told a Manchester Evening News.
Health workers say the rise in patients is being driven by a combination of new Covid-19 infections and people with long term health conditions that have not had proper treatment during the pandemic.
Lots of people in A&E say that they have been unable to get an appointment with their local GP and they now needed to come to hospital.
But the long waits are not only due to increase number of patients.
One London paramedic told Socialist Worker that the shortage of medical staff has gotten far worse as the first waves of the pandemic have receded.
“It’s true that our call volumes have gone up massively, and that means the easing-off that health workers were so desperate for isn’t coming,” he said.
“In fact, the job has become so hard that lots of people feel they just can’t do it anymore.
“Some people are retiring, others are no longer working overtime shifts.
“That means demand is rising but the number of staff is falling. That’s a terrible combination.
“This is the chickens coming home to roost. All the problems from before the pandemic are back—only now they are much bigger.
“No wonder staff are demoralised. The government don’t give a shit.”
The growing crisis in A&E units can now be found in every part of the NHS. That’s why the demonstrations for the health service set for Saturday 3 July in towns and cities across Britain are so vital.
They can unite campaigners and health workers fighting for a decent pay rise.