The boss of Croydon University Hospital said this winter has been one of the worst he has experienced in his 30 years in the NHS.

Matthew Kershaw also warned that Coronavirus was still prevalent at the South London hospital.

Speaking to a Croydon Council health and social care committee on Tuesday (January 24), he said: “I’ve worked in the NHS for over 30 years now and I would say at periods of the winter period we are now in it has been as difficult, if not more difficult than any of my previous years in the NHS.

“We have just gone through Covid and are still living with it. We have a number of patients in the trust who have got a positive Covid diagnosis so it has not completely gone away but it is of a different scale than it was two years ago.

“That was exceptionally difficult, largely because we were learning as we were going. What we’ve got now is an ongoing significant challenge to how urgent and emergency care services work for patients and the staff.

“I would say this is as difficult, if not more so, as what we dealt with in Covid times. There have been reductions in the standards we would aspire to and have achieved in the past in terms of the waits for urgent care.”

The latest NHS figures in December show that of the 13,792 patients that attended the hospital’s A&E 5,922 waited more than four hours to be seen.

A total of 535 patients waited more than 12 hours for a bed once a decision was made that they had to stay in hospital, this is up from the 442 who had such a long wait in November.

At a One Croydon Health and Care Board earlier this month, Lee McPhail, chief operating officer at the health trust, said measures taken by Croydon University Hospital meant patients were not being treated in corridors.

At the start of December, the hospital started using a discharge lounge, usually used for people waiting to leave hospital, as a place for patients to wait for a bed to become available.

It is usually used 10 hours a day, but has been expanded and turned into a 24/7 facility with 12 additional beds as well as a seating area.

This month, Croydon was picked as one of six hospitals nationally to take part in a pilot to free up hospital beds by giving people care in the community.

Croydon has been awarded £800,000 of funding to triple the number of residents who can continue their treatment at home once they are well enough to leave hospital.