Full hospitals creating potential danger expert analysis finds
Hospitals are “full to bursting” in England, creating a potentially dangerous environment for patients- an analysis by experts finds.Hospitals should run at about 85% capacity to give them room to cope with surges in demand, and figures show the NHS average hovering around that mark.
But analysts Dr Foster said the figure was skewed by quiet periods and rose higher if they were stripped out.
According to the analysis, if only midweek figures are taken into account, the average capacity figure for 2011-12 was 88%.
It rose to 90% if holiday periods, such as the royal wedding and Christmas, were stripped out, Dr Foster said.
The private research group said this was important as the quiet periods were helping to mask the fact that many trusts were now too full for long periods of the year.
Its report, which excluded specialist centres but included 145 hospital trusts, said when hospitals were too busy patient care suffered because systems started breaking down.
Dr Foster co-founder Roger Taylor said: “When that happens, patients are put in whatever bed can be found, orderly management of admission and discharge can become strained, infections are harder to control and mistakes are more likely to happen.”
But the analysis argued that if the NHS organised itself better it could relieve the pressure on hospitals.
From its analysis, Dr Foster said 29% of beds were taken up by patients who did not necessarily need to be there.
These included more than 10% who had conditions such as asthma and heart disease, which could be treated in the community, it said. Another 5% were readmissions within a week or discharge, while 2.5% were for dementia.
Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said: “These distressing figures reveal bed occupancy rates are at the very limit of what is safe or indeed desirable for patients.
“Our helpline hears day in day out from patients and relatives who are experiencing unacceptably poor care, with nursing staff telling relatives that they simply do not have time to deliver the fundamentals of good care or dignity.”
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