A top Southend consultant is among doctors who have supported a hard-hitting letter telling the Prime Minister their hospitals are “chronically underfunded”.

Dr Caroline Howard, lead consultant at Southend A&E, is one of 68 doctors who backed the letter, telling Theresa May that patients have been dying in the corridors of their hospitals.

The letter, which was obtained by the Health Service Journal, said patients are at risk because A&E departments are greatly under-staffed, and they cannot deal with the amount of people who need care.

The letter said: “We feel compelled to speak out in support of our hardworking and dedicated nursing, medical and allied health professional colleagues and for the very serious concerns we have for the safety of our patients.

“This current level of safety compromise is at times intolerable, despite the best efforts of staff.”

The letter, which was sent to the Prime Minister on Tuesday warned Mrs May that continued overcrowding of hospitals, and that only 45 per cent of A&E arrivals are being treated within four hours at some hospitals, is “dangerous” for the patients.

The letter went on: “We acknowledge that our Trusts and local CCGs are going everything they can to create capacity and more beds in the short term, and we are grateful to them for their continued assistance in such a time of crisis.

“We also acknowledge the help and support given to the emergency departments by our colleagues in other specialities and disciplines across our hospitals.

“The facts remain however that the NHS is severely and chronically underfunded.

“We have insufficient hospital and community beds and staff of all disciplines especially at the front door to cope with out ageing population’s health needs.”

Following the letter being sent to Mrs May, The Guardian newspaper reported she had said an increase in flu cases held part of the blame for the increased waiting times patients are facing in A&E.

The Prime Minister added: “We have put more funding into the NHS for these winter pressures. We’re putting more funding into the NHS overall.”

The department of health and social care also announced that there was a 25 per cent increase in doctor training. The expansion is the largest in NHS history.