The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has published a Report stating that the overcrowding of A&E Departments, is causing “thousands” of deaths each year.

Delays in A&E Treatment

The Royal College has estimated that 4,519 people died in England between 2020 and 2021, as a direct result of A&E delays. It is thought that these delays are due to the number of patients waiting to start their treatment.

NHS England have recently published their own investigations, which found that 1 in every 67 patients staying in an A&E Department for 12 hours, will come to excess harm.

Dr Gordon Miles, Chief Execute of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, has issued warnings and says that more needs to be done to relieve the pressure on the emergency services. He believes that the demand for care, and capacity in emergency departments are “severely mismatched”.

It is thought that A&E Departments are commonly being seen as the first port of call for patients, even where this might not be the most appropriate setting for them to receive care.

Ambulance Delays

There have also been instances at hospitals, where the overcrowding of A&E Departments has resulted in patients being left in ambulances for treatment.

A recent Report stated that up to 160,000 patients each year have been affected due to long delays waiting to be admitted to hospital. It is estimated that of these patient, approximately 12,000 will go on to suffer severe harm.

The NHS Guidelines state that hand over of patients from the ambulance to A&E staff should last no longer than 15 minutes. However, the overcrowding of A&E Departments is causing a shortage of staff in the emergency department and lack of available beds. This results in delays in patients commencing treatment.

It was revealed in October 2021, that a patient at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge died of a heart attack in the back of an ambulance, while she had been waiting for an available bed within the hospital. Her wait had been one hour and 20 minutes. A similar incident occurred in James Paget Hospital in Norfolk.

As well as delays outside of hospitals, it is also estimated that patients suffering from suspected heart attacks and strokes, are waiting on average 55 minutes for ambulances to arrive. We know that time is crucial for treatment in these cases, and this delay is unacceptable.

What is being done?

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has called on the Government to create a long-term plan, to try and reduce the waiting times in A&E Departments. They highlighted that a lot of staff members are choosing to leave the profession, due to the emotional stress that comes with working in a busy department.

Patients are being encouraged to contact the NHS 111 service, prior to attending A&E, to ensure that they attend the right place to get the help that they need. A&E should be used for patients that are having a medical emergency, or have been involved in a serious accident.

How can we help?

Have you or a loved one recently been harmed as a result of lengthy delays at A&E? We have a specialist team of clinical negligence solicitors who may be able to help you.

Call 01522 561020 or email


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