More than 10 patients die avoidable deaths linked to hospital overcrowding, research reveals
The shock figures, released by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, have alarmed health experts and led to calls for urgent Government action to “unblock” the system.
With ever-increasing numbers of people flocking to A&E departments across the country, they have warned the death toll is set to rise even higher.
Dr Adrian Boyle, chairman of the college’s Emergency Care Committee who helped carry out the analysis, said: “The number of deaths linked with overcrowded emergency departments is as serious a problem as the number of deaths caused by road traffic collisions. We need to recognise this.
“This is not caused by inappropriate attenders to A&E and is not confined to a few hospitals.”
He added: “Urgent action must be taken to unblock social care and unblock hospitals otherwise the problems will get worse and there will be more avoidable deaths.”
Experts say loss of life is being caused by delays in treatment in a “gridlocked” and “overstretched” system.
The shocking figures were released by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine
Consultant Dr Linda Dykes, a Fellow of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “These are appalling figures and this is a scandal.
The number of deaths linked with overcrowded emergency departments is as serious a problem
Dr Adrian Boyle
“The obvious ambulance or treatment delays are just the tip of the iceberg as patient outcomes are also being changed by the knock-on effect of a gridlocked hospital leading to poor care, which can have an impact on health.”
She added: “It becomes a vicious cycle. The number of days people stay in hospital actually goes up when hospitals are full, making the NHS even more log-jammed. The frail and elderly are particularly vulnerable.
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“Leaving elderly patients stranded in hospital awaiting social care packages isn’t just inhumane and cruel, it’s more expensive. Starving the NHS and social care of adequate funding is financial lunacy.”
Our research has found alarming evidence of a system at breaking point.
On one day this month four out of 10 hospitals issued warnings to show they were facing serious and dangerous pressures.
Dr Adrian Boyle said ‘urgent action’ was needed
One in seven issued the highest alert, OPEL 4, meaning patient care is at risk.
A patient who died in hospital in north-west England had to be kept on a ward for a day because the mortuary was full.
Adults are being put on children’s wards and specialist hospital day units are being closed to free up beds. Family doctors have been forced to drive patients to hospital amid “shocking” ambulance delays.
A patient had to be kept on a ward for a day because the mortuary was full
Patients are facing “trolley waits” of over 24 hours in some cases before being admitted.
Professor Simon Carley, an expert in emergency medicine, said: “Overcrowding causes harm and death on a large scale.”
NHS England said it could not comment on the figures from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine because it had not seen the raw data used.
However, it pointed out that the NHS was under unprecedented strain this winter, with the highest ever number of ambulance calls, A&E attendances and emergency admissions.