Patients are dying in hospital corridors during the ongoing winter crisis because the NHS is so underfunded and short-staffed that it cannot cope, senior doctors have warned Theresa May.
A&E units are under such intense strain that patients are at “intolerable” risk of being harmed by receiving poor care, specialists in emergency medicine from 68 hospitals have told the prime minister in a letter of unprecedented alarm.
In recent weeks some hospitals have become so overloaded that they have been looking after as many as 120 patients a day in corridors, with “some dying prematurely” as a result, the letter says.
The doctors, consultants who work in or run A&E units in England and Wales, have written to May to highlight “the very serious concerns we have for the safety of our patients. This current level of safety compromise is at times intolerable, despite the best efforts of staff.”
Conditions in many A&E units are so appalling that they could kill patients, claim the signatories, who work at both major teaching hospitals and smaller district general hospitals. They include Frimley #health trust in Surrey, which May visited last week in an attempt to reassure the public that the NHS was coping well this winter.
“As you will know a number of scientific publications have shown that crowded emergency departments are dangerous for patients. The longer that the patients stay in [the] emergency department after their treatment has been completed, the greater is their morbidity and associated morbidity,” they write.
Their intervention came as new NHS figures showed that the percentage of patients being treated within four hours at hospital-based A&E units in England fell last month to its lowest-ever level – 77.3%. The performance of all types of settings offering A&E-type care taken together, including walk-in centres and urgent care centres, was better but still the joint worst ever at 85.1% – far below the politically important target of 95%.