ELDERLY patients were left waiting overnight in A&E as Southend Hospital began to buckle under the pressure of the winter rush.

On the evening of Wednesday, December 1, Southend Hospital was overwhelmed by demand with one ambulance having to wait six hours to offload a patient.

Patients who admitted themselves in the afternoon were still waiting to be assigned to a ward for care the following morning, a member of campaign group Save Southend NHS has said.

“There were patients going in at five o’clock in the evening to A&E and they were still in the corridor of A&E at 8am the following morning,” Freddie Dawkins explained.

“They weren’t being moved onto wards, and we are talking about some very vulnerable older people. Staff were doing the best they could, but they were just overwhelmed.”

Mr Dawkins says two members of staff confirmed the reports to him after a patient’s relative raised the alarm.

Following the day of turmoil, a leaked internal email from medical director Stuart Harris said the hospital was in a “dire position”.

“Winter pressures are continuing on the Southend site,” the email stated.

“We are yet again in a dire position which is putting the safety of patients who use our services at real risk.”

Detailing the long waits ambulance staff experienced dropping off patients, Dr Harris added: "This was a very scary situation for both the patients and the staff.

"I fear if we don't turn this around we will have to stop all elective activity."

Hospital bosses have since denied elective surgery – operations that do not have to be done immediately – is set to be cancelled.

Mr Harris said: “We always communicate with our staff on plans and policies as we work together through a period of extremely high demand.

“We have no plans to cancel operations and our staff are working tirelessly to provide the best and safest care to our patients. This is reflected in our Good rating from the Care Quality Commission for care.

“Members of the public can help by calling NHS 111 before coming to A&E, unless there is an urgent life threatening situation.”