GP shortage blamed for long wait times at BHRUT hospitals

Cancer trial coming to Goodmayes hospital

King George Hospital in Goodmayes - Credit: Ken Mears

Emergency waiting times at King George and Queen’s Hospitals are increasing due to a lack of available GPs, a senior doctor has said. 

Patients needing emergency care at the hospitals face among the longest waits in the capital, comparable only with King’s College Hospital in south London. 

The latest figures show four out of ten emergency patients waited more than four hours this August, compared to two out of every ten at Whipps Cross in Waltham Forest. 

Frustrated Redbridge councillors agreed waiting times are “horrendous”, as they quizzed senior doctors from Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which runs both hospitals. 

Chief medical officer Dr Magda Smith said more patients are going to BHRUT hospitals than before the pandemic and they are “sicker than they were”. 

She said: “We’ve seen a significant increase in people using our urgent care and treatment centres...our GP colleagues are working flat out, but capacity is not in the system. 

“We had some excellent planning around the pandemic, I’m not so convinced we did a good job planning for the post-pandemic. 

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“We input and input and input, and yet there’s confounding factors. We know we’re under-doctored in primary care. We also have GPs being asked to run not just vaccine programmes but also third boost programmes.” 

Committee chair and Redbridge councillor Neil Zammett said: “The thing is BHRUT is the outlier, its performance is the worst in the country. 

“BHRUT is just so absolutely dreadfully bad, we recognise you’re doing your best, what we need is to try and find a way through.” 

Dr Smith said the trust had brought in a number of initiatives to reduce waiting times, including Frailty Units to reduce elderly patients coming into emergency wards, specialist doctors going to care homes, same-day emergency care to free up beds and investment to create more ward space. 

Accepting that the “problems run deep”, she added the hospital also has to run separate wards to lower the risk of Covid-19 transmission. 

Redbridge councillor Beverley Brewer said Dr Smith’s presentation “underestimates the horrific situation we’re in” and that “residents deserve better”.

This comes as the new chief executive of the BHRUT, Matthew Trainer, has vowed to improve emergency performance.

READ MORE: King George and Queen’s Hospitals face 100-bed shortfall at peak times