Doctors' warning: Patients dying because our hospitals are '˜jam-full'

NHS doctors' experiences of 'grave pressure' they face while working in the health service have been laid bare in a new report.

Tuesday, 28th February 2017, 10:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th February 2017, 12:44 pm

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said its document shows that doctors are facing “bed shortages, staff shortages and a lack of resources” while working on the NHS frontline.

One medic described how patients are dying because hospitals are “jam-full”.

Another says their hospital has three wards full of medically fit patients awaiting discharge, mostly to social care.

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One doctor said a patient was waiting for so long to be transferred to social care that her family were bringing in Ikea furniture to make the hospital bed area “more homely”.

Members of the public should be made aware of “just how bad the current situation really is”, said another of the 50 senior physicians from across England.

One doctor said: “As a regional hospital, it is almost impossible to get patients transferred in for specialist services.

“Patients are dying as a result of not accessing specialist care, as the hospitals are jam-full.”

Another of the doctors who spoke to the RCP said: “We have a policy to help each ward - not just the acute admissions wards, but each ward in the hospital - decide who is the ‘least bad’ patient to approach to ask to sleep on a bed in the corridor.

“We have a plan for which nurse takes responsibility for taking observations - they are recorded in ‘the corridor folder’. This certainly qualifies under the ‘things I never expected to see in my lifetime’ category.”

Meanwhile, another medic said: “One patient (a single parent with a spinal cord injury) spent so long waiting for social care (more than four months) that her family were bringing in Ikea furniture to make her hospital bed area more ‘homely’.”

Commenting on the report, RCP president Professor Jane Dacre, said: “[This report] not only shines a spotlight onto the real experiences of consultant physicians when facing bed shortages, staff shortages and a lack of resources, but also shows their extraordinary dedication to duty, knowing as they do that patient safety depends on it.

“I am so proud of our members for their commitment and grace under pressure, but it should not have to be like this - we need the government to start listening, investing, and supporting the NHS to give patients the service they deserve.”

Dr Kathy McLean, executive medical director at NHS Improvement, said: “The NHS is under pressure as more and more patients are cared for in our hospitals but we know that staff in hospitals are working incredibly hard to deliver the best care they can in the available beds as efficiently as possible.

“Of course, there is more that we can do to help them and we will continue to support providers so that they can deliver safe and sustainable care.

“NHS staff up and down the county are working really hard and deserve our thanks and support.”