Skip to main content

British politics

My “vision of hell” in A&E

Ambulances queuing outside the Royal London Hospital. Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Last month, I hit my head on a scaffolding bolt and had to go to A&E, says George Monbiot in The Guardian. I called ahead and was booked in for 9pm, so I “naively imagined” that was when I’d be seen. No such luck. Upon arrival, 16 ambulances were queuing to offload patients. The waiting room was a “vision of hell”: a man collapsed with symptoms of a heart attack; a toddler screamed “it hurts, it hurts!” for three hours straight. When I asked a nurse if it was an unusually frantic evening, she replied: “This is a quiet one.” I was eventually seen by a doctor at 3am.

This is what 13 years of austerity has given us. The NHS “funding gap” – the additional money it would have received had pre-2010 levels been sustained – is now £200bn. In that time, almost 9,000 general and acute beds have been lost in England. Among OECD countries, the average number of hospital beds is five per 1,000 people; the UK has 2.4. The “permanent crisis” in social care means 13,000 patients are needlessly kept in wards, fit for discharge but with nowhere to go. And up to 500 Britons are dying each week because of delays in emergency care. When the Tories refuse to boost spending, they “reject the idea of sustaining a functional service”. Our NHS is “bleeding out in the government’s waiting room, hoping for a call that never comes”.