Love Island's Dr Alex George: NHS winter crisis can only get worse

A&E performance in England dipped to its lowest level since the four-hour target was introduced in January.

The percentage of patients treated or admitted within four hours fell to 84.4%, well short of the 95% target and almost a percentage point worse than a year ago.

Dr Alex George, who found fame as a contestant on TV2 reality show Love Island last summer, is an A&E doctor.

Writing for Sky News, Dr Alex reveals the strains on the NHS during winter.

A&E is one of the most exciting departments I have ever worked in.

It's fast-paced, exciting, you never know what is going to come through those doors, it forces you to think on your feet and is hugely rewarding.

But there is a downside to working in A&E, and that is winter.

Ask anyone you know who has been to an A&E department in the UK during the colder months and they'll complain of four, five, six hour waits, or beyond that.

Us doctors feel that frustration too, trust me.

It is incredibly difficult to treat people as quickly and smoothly as possible with the incredible strain that is put on emergency departments across the NHS.

Last year, I think it is fair to say we were at breaking point.

With the staffing crisis in the NHS, the bleak view is that this can only get worse.

Already being in the department this year, on the brink of sub-degree temperatures, it is incredibly busy.

Winter is a difficult time for many, especially the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to illnesses such as the flu.

There are festive accidents, those who have had one too many at their Christmas party as well as those whose chronic illnesses, such as asthma, get worse.

We naturally expect more patients to come through the door during the winter, and that's fine, but we need the resources to treat everyone effectively.

There are many factors to this, one of which is bed-blocking.

Every year we see patients that are medically fit for discharge having to remain in an acute bed due to their home situation - whether that's due to nursing homes being full, or delays in installing necessary stair lifts etc. in their homes.

But there are strains in other parts of the NHS that have a knock-on effect in A&E.

Mental health is incredibly close to my heart, but so many times we have seen patients admitted to A&E with mental health issues. Many of whom have come to breaking point because they've been on mental health service's waiting lists too long.

This is worsened by the fact that, once being admitted to A&E, they still have to wait for a bed on an acute mental health wards - which are few and far between.

This has effects on the entire department, the patient's treatment is prolonged and other patients aren't being treated as quickly.

So what can you do this winter to help your A&E?

If you're eligible for a flu vaccination, please do so: not only can this protect yourself but it helps prevent spreading the flu to others in the community.

If possible, avoid coming to A&E or GP services unless absolutely necessary, to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to others.

For further sources of support and advice, the 111 service is excellent and a great point of contact for guidance when in need.