A nurse has been filmed warning patients at Harlow A&E that wait times to see a doctor may reach up to 13 hours.
In a video shared online, a staff member addressed patients in the waiting room at an A&E run by Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Gary Sitton, who shared the footage on Twitter, said his family member had visited the A&E on Monday night.
“We’ve currently got 170 patients in the department…that’s quite a few,” the nurse warned.
She said 90 patients hadn’t yet been seen by a doctor and wait times were sitting at 7.5 hours.
“I will estimate that by the time I go home at eight o’clock in the morning some of you will still be here waiting for a doctor because the wait will get up to 12 or 13 hours. I will expect that.” She said.
The woman said there were no beds free at that time but staff were trying to “make space”.
She added: “But if people are admitted there’s a chance they might stay in A&E for the night. We will make you comfortable, we will do our best to look after you. But please don’t expect you’ll be going straight to a ward because that may not happen.”
The nurse asked relatives of patients to leave due to social distancing requirements.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid was played a clip of the nurse on BBC Breakfast.
In response, Mr Javid said the NHS is seeing “very high levels of demand” in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.
“Of course that’s not a thing that anyone wants to see,” he said.
“Because of the impact of Covid… we know already from our NHS estimates, we think some 11 to 13 million people stayed away from the NHS because of the pandemic.
“Many of those people are coming forward, many of those to A&E, and we’re seeing very high levels of demand.
“That is a real challenge for the NHS across the system.
“What we’re doing about it is investing record amounts including in ambulance trusts, the 111 calling service that now have more call handlers than ever before, we put in just last year additional emergency £400 million for A&E facilities across the country.
“So I think the NHS is doing everything it possible can be doing. The waiting times are improving but it’s not what anyone wants to see, those kind of waits.”
Stephanie Lawton, chief operating officer at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said: “We are currently experiencing extremely high demand for our emergency care services and have seen a significant increase in attendances in our emergency department.
“Our teams are working hard to assess and treat patients as quickly and effectively as possible to reduce delays, prioritising those in most clinical need.
“The public can help us to ease pressures by using the NHS 111 service for healthcare advice in non-urgent cases. As ever, please continue to call 999 or attend the emergency department for urgent and life-threatening emergencies.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Government of being “utterly unable to improve our NHS”.
“The Conservatives had left the health system inadequate when pandemic hit and things are getting worse,” he said.
But Boris Johnson claimed his Government was in fact “reducing wait times” but “more fundamentally using our economic strength to invest in doctors and nurses and getting people on the wards”.
He said the Government is on target to recruit 50,000 more nurses and there has been “colossal” investment in the NHS, including increasing pay for nurses.