Fears for patient safety at ‘dangerously overcrowded’ hospitals

Calderdale Royal Hospital
Calderdale Royal Hospital

Nursing leaders have called for action to tackle NHS staffing shortages after “extremely worrying” figures showed some hospitals are dangerously overcrowded.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said hospitals were struggling to cope after NHS England data showed bed occupancy rates higher than the recommended safe level.

The average occupancy rate at hospitals in England was around 95 per cent last week, with rates of 100 per cent recorded by some NHS trusts.

Glenn Turp, regional director for RCN Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “These figures are extremely worrying.

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Over three quarters of the acute trusts in Yorkshire and the Humber have bed occupancy rates above 95 per cent. Not only is this above the England average, it is also well above the 85 per cent safe limit recommended by experts.

“Hospitals are overcrowded and over-stretched, making the delivery of safe quality care very difficult and putting patients and the staff that care for them at risk.”

The occupancy rate at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust was between 90 and 92 per cent.

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Chief operating officer Helen Barker said: “Despite increased pressure we are generally managing well thanks to the ongoing hard work and dedication of our staff and those of local health and social care colleagues.

“We currently have no escalation beds open, no wards closed as a result of infection and we have not cancelled any operations due to bed pressures.”

NHS England has said that 92 per cent should be the benchmark for bed occupancy, not 85 per cent.

A spokesperson said: “The NHS continues to perform well thanks to the hard work of its staff, with fewer delayed ambulance handovers and hospitals supporting more patients to return home quicker, and with cold weather alerts in place, the public have an important role to play in doing what they can to stay well and making use of health services wisely.”

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Wakefield-based Mid Yorkshire Hospitals both saw bed occupancy of around 98 per cent on some days last week.