THIS shocking image shows patients lining a hospital ward – amid waiting times of more than eight hours – in an image described as presenting an "extremely worrying picture" of the growing pressure on our health services.
Yet Croydon University Hospital told the Advertiser this week the image simply shows an average night in its accident and emergency department.
The picture was taken from a video shot by a relative of an elderly patient who spent eight hours and 46 minutes waiting to be seen after being taken to the A&E with a suspected chest infection at 10pm on Friday.
Michael Castle, 21, described how his uncle, 78-year-old Anthony Harman, was far from alone in facing extended waiting times amid scenes verging on chaos.
He said: "A lady who had come in with heart problems discharged herself because she had been there six hours and not been seen.
"Another lady waited eight hours for an X-ray. The staff nurse described A&E as 'like Baghdad'. There were bodies everywhere, and bloods and observations were being neglected.
"It was very bad.
"I have a lot of respect for Croydon University Hospital but they should have diverted ambulances to another A&E.
"After I thanked the nurse for her help she replied: 'I didn't really help, you've seen how bad its been here. You don't know how many of us said to go on divert. At the end of the day, it's patients' lives at risk'."
Croydon Health Services said it was unable to provide "validated" data in response to questions about how many people attended A&E that evening or how many had waited for longer than four hours, the target the trust, which runs the hospital, sets itself.
The trust said its A&E, which is divided into an urgent care centre run by Virgin Care and a traditional emergency department, had been "busy", like most other emergency units in south west London.
The hospital said ambulance diverts, which last 90 minutes, only occur on a planned basis.
A spokesman added: "At this time of year our A&E department, like many others across the country, can become very busy but we have a duty of care to provide appropriate treatment for anyone who attends the A&E department.
"Our staff work very hard to ensure the safety of everyone in the department. Whilst we try to ensure that nearly every patient is seen, treated and either admitted or safely discharged within four hours, during extremely busy times it may not be possible to do this."
Mr Castle, of Pirbright Crescent in New Addington, said: "This may be something normal but that doesn't make it right."
Croydon Healthwatch Pathfinder, a group which represents patients, urged the trust to launch an investigation.
Chairman Frederick Clark said: "The image presents an extremely worrying picture of the growing pressures on our local A&E services and the traumatic impact this has on local residents, many with serious health needs and concerns.
"Croydon Healthwatch Pathfinder have, for some time, expressed concerns that waiting times have been too long and conditions unacceptable at the department.
"While we are aware that facilities are to be upgraded, we need to be reassured that senior staffing levels are adequate, policies for redirection are acted upon and patients' dignity and treatment are the main priority."