Around 4,000 patients are spending more than 12 hours in A&E a day and the emergency care system is “collapsing”, a top accident and emergency doctor has warned.
Dr Adrian Boyle, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), also said hospitals are increasingly too overcrowded and cannot cope with the amount of people coming through their doors.
He added he was “very worried” about the numbers of people that are dying because they didn’t receive prompt care.
His warning comes ahead nurses preparing to strike for two days before Christmas over pay – in their first walk out in history.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “We are very worried about what I would call British exceptionalism.
“There is avoidable mortality that is occurring pretty much only in Britain – which is related to the collapse of the emergency care system.”
Hospitals are facing unprecedented pressure due to staff shortages – resulting in record numbers of patients at A&E departments.
According to RCEM data, the number of patients stuck on trolleys for more than 12 hours has risen by 50 per cent in a year and it is estimated struggles to access emergency care is responsible for about 2,000 deaths a month.
Among those striking are nurses working at NHS 111 centres – which has prompted fears there will be extra pressure heaped on A&E units.
Up to 350,000 paramedics, porters and cleaners represented by Unison are expected to soon take part in a ballot over whether they will also strike over pay.
A vote by the union Unite, which represents similar staff working in the NHS, is also due at the end of the week.
In 2021/22 almost a million people were forced to wait at least 12 hours in A&E – three times higher than three years earlier, according to NHS data for England.
Analysis by the RCEM suggests this figure could surge to 1.5 million this year – and there could be a 50 per cent rise in cases in a year.
A&E patients should be treated, admitted or discharged within four hours, according to NHS target – but only 71 per cent of people are being treated within this time.
NHS England publishes monthly statistics on the number of A&E patients forced to wait more than 12 hours – after doctors chose to admit them to hospital.
But the RCEM claims these cases are the tip of the iceberg because they do not account for time spent waiting before that decision is taken.
Latest data has revealed, 43,792 people waited longer than 12 hours in October – a rise from 32,776 in September and 19,053 in May.
NHS England has been contacted by i for comment.