At SQ, our purpose is to lessen the waiting time within hospitals. Seeing news that patients are dying because of a crowded A&E is really tough to hear about.


Overcrowding in emergency departments in Britain is contributing to the deaths of thousands of patients each year, and more deaths are likely this winter. 

Approximately 4,519 people died in England in 2020-21, as a direct result of care issues in A&E while waiting to start treatment in the hospital. A report by The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) also found that 709 people have died in Wales and 303 in Scotland so far this year due to the same reason. Northern Ireland also experienced 566 excess deaths due to overcrowding in 2020-21. According to the report, the number of 4,519 in England may be underestimated. In total, the four figures mean the college has identified nearly 6,097 deaths likely to be caused by overcrowding that hampered the patient’s treatment across the four home nations. 

Dr Adrian Boyle, a vice-president of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), stated “To say this figure is shocking is an understatement. Quite simply, crowding kills. There’s a lot of human misery behind these figures. It’s uncomfortable and unbearable that people are being put through this and it’s impossible not to feel upset and angry about this.”Boyle demanded immediate action by ministers and NHS leaders to reduce deaths by tackling overcrowding. He carried on to say “The situation is unacceptable, unsustainable and unsafe for patients and staff. Political and health leaders must realise that if performance continues to fall this winter more and more patients will come to avoidable harm in the emergency department.


The findings of the RCEM follow yesterday’s announcement by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) that too few ambulances are available to meet 999 calls in England, which resulted in patients dying in the back of ambulances, in hospitals and in their homes. There were a total of 160,000 people coming to harm a year, including 12,000 who were suffering “severe harm”, due to ambulances being parked outside hospitals because ambulance staff were too busy to accept the patients paramedics were taking care of. According to the report, these numbers compare unfavourably with the number of people who died in road traffic collisions in the UK last year: 1,827.

These news articles have become more and more common during COVID, even after the vaccination programme. It is clear that the problem with people flow is causing major issues for A&E departments, and that has knock-on effects outside of the hospitals. In a few weeks we will look at how this links with patient flow in the care sector.

Meg Wheller
Media Marketer, Spatial Quotient