Cuts to NHS 'creating high risk'
Nursing leaders have called for a halt to the loss of hospital beds after a study revealed that patients were being left on trolleys for hours on end and treated in corridors.
A survey of 1,200 nurses and healthcare assistants painted a "worrying picture", with patients regularly being kept in ambulances or held in a queue because of a lack of trolleys and beds, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said.
In some cases, patients were on hospital trolleys for more than 24 hours, while others were moved regularly for non-clinical reasons so targets could be met, the UK-wide research showed.
More than a fifth of nurses said patients were receiving care in corridors or other unsuitable areas every day. The situation was even worse in emergency departments.
Most nurses said patient safety was being compromised, according to the study, published before the RCN's annual conference in Harrogate.
The RCN said that in the last decade in England the average daily availability of general and acute hospital beds fell by 22%, with trusts often cutting back for financial reasons.
RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: "This survey paints a worrying picture of what is happening in our hospitals. Two years ago we warned that the need to make £20 billion in efficiency savings in England alone would risk sending the NHS back to the days of treating patients in corridors or areas not designed for care. Sadly, it looks like those days have now returned.
"Treating patients on corridors or areas not designed for care is a high-risk strategy which can have a serious impact on patient care. Patients need to be able to interact with staff, to be able to reach call bells and to know they are visible. They also need regular monitoring and easy access to equipment if their condition deteriorates. Finally, patients need to have their privacy and dignity protected. It is extremely disappointing that in this day and age patients cannot rely on receiving this care."
A third of those polled said "intolerable pressure" was being placed on staff, highlighting the stress frontline workers were under, said the report.
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: "Hospitals and services will have varying demands from area to area and service to service, and NHS employers fully recognise the importance of having the right staffing levels to provide the safest care."