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Winter meltdown: patients robbed of 'privacy and dignity'

– Bed-occupancy rate reaches all-time high of 96 percent

– ‘We have a health service breaking all the wrong records’

Patients are being assessed in hospital corridors while doctors and other medical staff are being pushed to the brink, following unprecedented winter pressures on the NHS. 

The first three days of 2018 saw 13 trusts in England hit 100 percent bed occupancy, with the average national occupancy rate reaching a new high of 96 percent on 3 January.

Speaking to BMA News, one emergency medicine consultant said that they were aware of trusts being urged to downgrade their operational pressures status by NHS Improvement.

Another said that ‘most emergency department patients are now assessed in corridors’ adding that the provision of safe care was now coming at the expense of patients’ ‘dignity and privacy’.

The extent of the pressures facing staff last week prompted 68 emergency medicine consultants and clinical leads from across the country to write an open letter to prime minister Theresa May.

Emphasising the severity of situation facing emergency medicine departments, the letter warned that patient safety is, at times, being compromised to ‘intolerable’ levels.

Figures published this month by NHS England have served to underline and corroborate the anecdotal reports of frontline doctors.

Winter SitRep data for January showed that, on New Year’s Day, a historically unparalleled total of 14 trusts in England were forced to place temporary diverts on admissions to their emergency departments due to demand.

Separate figures relating to emergency care revealed that total attendances to emergency departments in England during December came to just over two million, equivalent to 70,000 more attendances than in December 2016.

Overall performance among trusts in England against the target of 95 percent of patients was either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of arrival at hospital fell to just 85 percent, the lowest on record.

Last month just over 69,000 patients had to wait more than four hours following their admission compared to 61,729 in December 2016.

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said that figures revealing unprecedented waiting times and emergency admissions would come as all too obvious to doctors on the ground.

He said: ‘Once again, we have a health service breaking all the wrong records, and behind these statistics are real patients, waiting longer, often in distress, and doctors working under impossible conditions, exhausted and demoralised that they cannot provide the level of care their patients need.

‘I have heard from many of the working doctors about the intense pressures in their hospitals and GP surgeries, stories, and at times heroic efforts to provide services against all odds.

‘It makes me all the more proud to be a doctor, but sadly all the more ashamed to be in a system that is not providing us with the tools and resources to fulfil our professional duty of care, and it has strengthened my resolve for the BMA to continue fighting for a just solution and supporting our members.’

 

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