‘Perfect storm’ of more covid, soaring A&E demand and staff exhaustion feared by London hospital chief

Professor Tim Orchard, chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said its hospitals – which include St Mary’s and Charing Cross – and others in the capital were struggling with A&E numbers normally only seen in the winter.

At the end of July, Imperial had 1,464 patients waiting more than a year for non-emergency treatment or surgery. Pre-pandemic, it had fewer than 10. Across London, more than 800,000 patients are awaiting hospital treatment.

Professor Orchard said staff were exhausted and some hospital services would have to be postponed to help them cope in the event of more Covid cases.

“If all of this comes together in a perfect storm, we are not going to be able to continue with our elective programme in way we would like to do,” he said. “We have to be aware of that.

“It’s a concern, given usage of urgent and emergency care pathways. Like most other trusts in London, we have seen a significant increase in the number of people arriving in the emergency department.

“What we are trying to do is manage this urgent and emergency care demand and try to ensure we are getting on top of the backlog.”

Imperial’s hospitals already limit patients to one visitor for only an hour a day. Professor Orchard said the restrictions would have to remain in force this winter to prevent the spread of infection.

The throughput of A&E patients continues to be hindered by the need to separate Covid-positive cases at the front door and treat them in isolation. Professor Orchard said some people seeking help in A&E “probably don’t need to be in ED [the emergency department]”.

St Mary’s hospital, Paddington

/ Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust


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