Bed shortages and social care cuts make situation ‘unsafe’
MORE patients than ever are being forced to wait on hospital trolleys for over 12 hours due to a lack of beds, shocking new statistics revealed yesterday.
Drastic bed shortages and cuts to social care were blamed for the huge increase in patients waiting in hospital corridors as the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) warned NHS bed occupancy was running at unsafe levels.
NHS England statistics show a shocking 10,546 per cent rise in the last five years in the number of patients left waiting for more than 12 hours in A&E departments during winter.
Figures for January to March 2012 showed that just 15 patients waited more than 12 hours for a bed compared to 1,597 for the same period this year — the highest on record.
RCEM President Dr Taj Hassan said: “The figures show just how bad waiting times have become for patients in depths of winter.
“Patients should not have to endure such long waits, particularly in colder conditions when frail patients are more vulnerable.”
The so-called “trolley waits” refer to patients that need to be admitted to hospital for further treatment but are kept in a side room or a corridor until a bed can be found for them.
The real figure may actually be far higher as time spent waiting in A&E to see a doctor is not counted towards the waiting time.
Mr Hassan said the problems were due to “exit blocking” with thousands of patients forced to remain in hospital because of problems arranging their social care in the community.
He said the NHS needed an additional 5,000 beds to help reduce bed occupancy levels which are currently at 92 per cent — significantly higher than the safe level of 85 per cent.
“Over the last five years there has been a continued reduction in bed numbers yet an increase in patients needing to be admitted,” he said, adding: “There can be little doubt that patients are suffering the consequences of this reduction.
“Along with more doctors, we desperately need more beds to stop the system from grinding to a halt.”
A Department of Health spokesman claimed it had given A&E departments an extra £100 million ahead of winter with £2 billion of social care funding.