Top A&E doctors have warned the NHS that they are no longer able to guarantee safe care for their patients.
In a leaked letter from 20 emergency medicine chiefs from the West Midlands seen by The Independent the doctors warn of"toxic overcrowding" and "institutional exhaustion."
All of our EDs [Emergency Departments] have been under immense pressure for the last few months.
There is toxic ED overcrowding, the likes of which we have never seen before.
Nurses and doctors are forced to deliver care in corridors and inappropriate areas within the ED, routinely sacrificing patient privacy and dignity and frequently operating at the absolute margins of clinical safety.
– Leaked letter from top A&E doctors
What is entirely unacceptable is the delivery of unsafe care, but that is now the prospect we find ourselves facing on too frequent a basis.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has accused the government of "dangerous complacency" over the growing problems in Accident and Emergency departments.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had been called to the House of Commons to answer an urgent question over the "crisis" in A&E units.
Senior Accident and Emergency doctors said "toxic overcrowding" and “institutional exhaustion" is putting patients lives at risk, according to a leaked letter seen by the Independent.
The crisis within A&E is now so bad that doctors cannot guarantee safe care for patients, according to the letter from 20 leaders of emergency departments from the West Midlands.
Rising numbers of patients has created a "state of crisis", the doctors said.
They wrote: “What is entirely unacceptable is the delivery of unsafe care, but that is now the prospect we find ourselves facing on too frequent a basis.”
The pressures on A&E departments are "growing" leaving the service "closer to the cliff edge", the NHS Confederation chief executive has warned.
Mike Farrar said: "Like many hard-working frontline staff in the NHS, we have been ringing the alarm bells about urgent care services struggling to meet the demands of patients.
"The recent headlines do not lie – the pressures are growing and we are getting closer and closer to the cliff edge.
"In the last ten years, emergency admissions through A&E have increased by 51 per cent; that's an extra 1.25 million more patients going in to hospital on an unplanned basis.
"If we continue with this trend, we will see another extra half a million patients cramming into our A&E department in the next three years. This will be simply impossible for our hospital services to cope with, despite the heroic efforts of staff to date."
The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "The most recent statistics (show that) over the last three weeks, A&E performance has actually exceeded the 95% standards for people admitted or discharged within four hours.
"There are also 1 million more people visiting A&E than three years ago."
The Labour whips' office has tweeted:
Urgent Question from @andyburnhammp at 1230 on government's response to A&E crisis
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the coalition's care reform plans are an attempt to "distract attention from the Government's own failings".
He added that A&Es have gone downhill "sharply" in the last couple of years, which was greatly due to cuts in social care.
Mr Burnham identified two problems with the out of hours service, the first that the NHS does not need another "huge organisation", and the second that it will still not solve the problems in A&E.
Mike Farrar from the NHS Confederation said hospitals are really "struggling to get people through A&E departments."
He said that over the last decade the number of people going to A&E has risen by 50% and the reason is because people are "unable to be cared for at home".
He added that the money needs to be redistributed to "primary community and social care" to get people living independently.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted to ITV News that more staff on A&E wards was needed to deal with the increased numbers of people attending.
His comments come amidst warnings from the College of Emergency Medicine that departments were on the verge of collapse due to understaffing and 'unsustainable workloads'.