I had to go to A&E in July 2013 & again October 2013 and recently last December. I first went to St. Mary's in Paddington and then sent to Charing Cross Hospital. In October I went yet again to Charing Cross and last December I had to get an ambulance to take me to the nearest A&E, which was Northwick Park Hospital. Unfortunately two days later I had to yet again dial 999 and the ambulance took me first to St Mary's and then I was sent to Charing Cross. My problem was heavy nose bleeds known as epistaxis. Whereas when I went by minicab the first two times and was seen within the four hours or so, when I was taken by ambulance (I cannot praise the paramedics enough by the way.... I wish I had taken their names to thank them) I was seen quicker and although in July and December I had to wait for a bed, by 5am one was found in one of the wards at Charing Cross.
As many have already pointed out the problem with A&E is created by those who cannot get an appointment to see their GPs. Many Europeans do not register with a doctor and hence all they do is go straight to A&E. I heard a few Italians and Spanish when I was waiting at Charing Cross in July & October 2013 - they were there because they needed something for a cold. In fact they were saying they needed antibiotics for a cold or a cough. Anyone with no insurance should have to pay a fee of at least £50 to see a doctor. They will soon think twice about going to A&E. They could easily buy painkillers or cough mixtures from a chemist. Also you have many non-Europeans who go to A&E straight from the airport, still with their suitcases. Again if they had to pay, they would refrain from abusing the system.
Evenings of course mean many have over-indulged and the medical staff have to put up with drunks or those who have suffered some injury because of being drunk in the first place. You come across elderly patients who are sometimes confused and can be difficult. Easy it's not, but the medical staff try their best under pressure and also long shifts
I would most definitely have someone checking insurance for those who do not qualify for free treatment. A&E should have a few camp beds for drunken people to sleep it off whilst more urgent cases are dealt with. The fact that now A&E have security guards says a lot as to what nurses and doctors have to put up with and although I have lived in this country since 1972 and worked all this time I'm still grateful that we have the NHS taking care of our health. I know that many things have changed and now targets are oh so important that many doctors have little or no time to discuss health matters with the patients, but overall they do a fantastic job.