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Royal London Hospital, Stepney Way entrance
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The emergency services of Royal London Hospital are under pressure

Royal London Hospital has expressed concern that the new Elizabeth Line puts pressure on its emergency services, as a growing number of patients are coming from neighbouring boroughs.

During a meeting with the Tower Hamlets Council’s Health and Adults Scrutiny Sub-Committee on Tuesday 16 October, Tom Cornwell, the divisional director of operations at the Royal London Hospital, said the opening of the Elizabeth line station in Whitechapel next to the hospital site, was a ‘massive factor’. 

Mr Cornwell said:

‘During the second phase of the Elizabeth line opening, there was quite a significant increase around the Hackney, Newham and Waltham Forest area.

‘We’ve seen a big growth in terms of our attendances … who potentially would have been going to other local hospitals such as Whipps Cross or Homerton [University Hospital].’

According to council documents, the hospital in Whitechapel has seen its overall four-hour performance in accident and emergency (A&E) drop from 75% in April 2019 to 58% in August 2023.

Similarly, its urgent treatment centres (UTC), which provide medical help for patients when it’s non-life threatening, had an overall four-hour performance in April 2019 of 98% however by August 2023 this dropped to 77%.

The number of people attending a UTC at the hospital had increased by 80% when compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to Tower Hamlets Council documents.

When the meeting opened up for questions, Labour councillor Amina Ali asked Royal London staff whether they were in contact with nearby East London hospitals about the ‘sudden surge’ in patients using its emergency services.

Cllr Ali said:

‘Obviously it seems that the pressure of these increased patients from different boroughs is causing more pressure on existing services that we have already here in Tower Hamlets for our residents.’

Kathriona Davison, chief operating officer at Royal London, said Homerton, Newham and Whipps Cross hospitals hadn’t seen a reduction in their activity but that ‘it just happens to come to us as a result of the Elizabeth line and that’s the indication from the data that we have at the moment’. 

A spokesperson for Barts Health NHS Trust said:

 ‘Like many NHS hospitals, The Royal London is experiencing a high demand for services with the number of patients treated increasing considerably and bed occupancy almost doubling since 2019.

‘We are committed to meeting the national target of 76%, and we are consistently meeting the four-hour target for children. To reduce the time our patients are waiting in A&E we are working with our partners in The Urgent Treatment Centre.’

For more about healthcare, read Why community pharmacies like Sinclairs are the key to the NHS’s endurance.


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