Patients are dying in hospital corridors as safety is compromised by “intolerable” conditions, doctors say.
The warning has been issued in a letter to the prime minister signed by 68 senior A&E doctors, spelling out the danger patients are facing this winter.
It comes as reports have emerged of people being left for hours on trolleys in corridors and stuck in ambulances.
Hospital bosses said they had run out of beds as they battle with “very high” rates of flu.
Official figures show the number of hospital admissions from flu has risen by more than 50% in the past week in England, although Public Health England officials said the levels were certainly not “unprecedented”.
Instead, hospital bosses have blamed the bed shortages on a lack of money and staff.
Last week, there was a point when 133 out of 137 hospital trusts in England had an unsafe number of patients on their wards, NHS records show
The letter from doctors in England and Wales sets out some of the impact of this pressure.
- Patients are having to sleep in makeshift wards set up in side rooms
- Trolley waits of up to 12 hours are being routinely seen as staff struggle to find free beds
- Thousands of patients are left stuck in the back of ambulances waiting for A&E staff to take them in
- More than 120 patients a day are being managed in corridors in some places, some dying prematurely
The letter has been sent on the day it has been revealed that England’s A&Es missed their four-hour waiting time target by a record margin in December – more than 300,000 patients waited longer than they should.
Just over 85% of patients were seen in four hours – well below the 95% target – and marginally worse than the previous low in January 2017.
Chris Hopson, of NHS Providers, said hospitals were unsafe and overcrowded, and the NHS was at a “watershed moment”, requiring long-term funding.
The rest of the UK is also struggling. Waits in Scotland’s major A&E units hit their worst levels at the end of December.
The Welsh government has said the health service was facing “significant pressure” and in Northern Ireland the Antrim Area Hospital has had to bring in St John Ambulance volunteers to help with a surge in demand.