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. It comes as the Royal College of Nursing conference in Harrogate starts.
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. 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
"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."
– Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation
"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. Organisations need to plan care in a way that is best for the patient. We encourage NHS employers to put the ward sister or charge nurse in the driving seat to plan the right staffing levels and ensure patients get the safest care."
– Health Minister Simon Burns
"There is no excuse for patients to be left waiting on trolleys. The NHS has beds free and available, and hospitals should be supporting their nurses to ensure that patients are admitted to them quickly. We will not hesitate to take action where we find hospitals failing to do so.With an ageing population, we need to make sure we care for people better outside hospital so that they do not need to go in for treatment. This will help reduce pressure on beds and nurses working in hospitals. Over the last year, we have seen the number of emergency admissions to hospital go down for the first time in years, but we need to maintain this improvement so that people stay healthier for longer and that nurses have more time to care for patients in hospital."