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Hospitals 'too full'

3rd December 2012

Experts have warned that patients' health is being put at risk because of crowded hospitals which are "full to bursting".

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Analysis carried out by Dr Foster found that while the NHS average appeared at first to meet the recommended capacity level of 85%, this figure changed if quiet periods were removed from the data.

The researchers said the midweek average for 2011-12 was 88%, but this increased to 90% if quieter periods such as Christmas and the royal wedding were removed.

Dr Foster's report said these quieter times were masking the evidence that some trusts were too full during some parts of the year.

The report looked at 145 hospital trusts but did not include specialist centres and underlined the fact that over-full hospitals had a detrimental effect on hospitals' systems.

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." 

The report also found more than a quarter of beds (29%) were occupied by patients who did not have to be there, including people with asthma or heart issues who could have been given community care.

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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