A&E departments are at breaking point, a GWH doctor has warned

Dr Stephen Haig, an emergency department consultant at GWH, was one of 68 doctors to sign a joint letter to the Prime Minister.

In it, they warn of hospitals struggling to cope with demand.

“We have insufficient hospital and community beds and staff of all disciplines especially at the front door to cope with our population’s health needs,” they said.

They ask for a significant increase in social care funding and a review of the number of beds available for acute care.

The letter, which was originally published in the Health Services Journal, came as new figures revealed that GWH faced its busiest winter week – with almost all its hospital beds occupied.

NHS England figures showed that last week more than 97 per cent of general and acute bed spaces at GWH were taken by patients.

It represented the highest level since seasonal monitoring began in late November.

According to the data, the Marlborough Road hospital also saw a rise in norovirus cases, with ward managers closing 12 beds on Sunday.

Hospital bosses said they had seen a rise in the number of flu cases. Nationally, Public Health England said that in the past week there has been a 78 per cent jump in the number of people approaching their GPs with flu symptoms in the past week – and a 50 per cent increase in the flu hospitalisation rate.

GWH urged those with flu to visit the hospital only in the most urgent cases.

A spokesman said: “This last week has seen high numbers of people admitted to hospital for flu, which has added extra strain at an already extremely busy time.

“With more people arriving, our focus has been on ensuring that when patients are well enough to leave, they have the support to do so in a safe, comfortable and timely fashion.

“A range of initiatives, such as the new dedicated ambulance to transfer patients quickly between GWH and the nearby SwICC, are helping us do this and we hope to see and feel the benefits of these measures soon.”

This week has revealed mounting pressures on the NHS.

New statistics showed that performance of A&E departments across the country fell to its lowest ever level last month – with 77.3 per cent of patients being treated within four hours. The target is 95 per cent.

In their letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Haig and his 67 colleagues warned that last week’s four hour performance target was even lower: between 45 and 75 per cent.

They added: “Thousands of patients are waiting in ambulances for hours as the hospitals lack adequate space.

“As a matter of urgency we ask that you consider supporting strategies that will reduce crowding in our emergency departments.”

Responding to the letter, a Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said that there had been a 68.7 per cent increase in A&E consultants since 2010.

“We know there is a great deal of pressure in A&E departments, and we are grateful to all NHS staff for their incredible work in challenging circumstances,” she added.

“That’s why we recently announced the largest single increase in doctor training places in the history of the NHS – a 25 per cent expansion.”