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Urgent action needed as hospitals ‘fit to burst’, says RCEM

29 February 2024

Burnt out medical staff are working in dangerously overcrowded hospitals and the government must take urgent action to address it.

That is the reaction today (February 29, 2024) from The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) as new data shows that hospitals across England were again close to capacity last week.

The latest NHS Sitrep (Situation Report) data, released weekly by NHS England, covers the week of the 19 to 25 February 2024. It revealed that, on average 94% of hospital beds were occupied, meaning 10,744 more beds would have been needed to bring the level back down to 85% which is considered ‘safe’.

And the ability of hospitals to discharge patients who are well enough to leave remains a significant issue, with more than half of people who no longer met the criteria to reside remaining in hospital (55.3%).

Dr Adrian Boyle, President of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine said: “Any increase in beds is always welcome and although we may quibble about whether the 5,000 target has been met, it is clear that the additional capacity is nowhere near enough. Our hospitals are perpetually full to bursting. We simply need more beds. Many more.

“A lack of available beds is the root of all issues we see in hospitals today. We need to be able to move people from A&E, to wards and when they are well enough, they move on and go home.

“Without this flow – the system blocks and grinds to a halt – and that is when we see the unacceptable and dangerous situations in Emergency Department with patients on trolleys in corridors for hours and ambulances backed up outside.

“Our members and their colleagues are doing their utmost to firefight and provide the best care they can to our patients – but the relentless pressure takes its toll – they are tired, they are disillusioned, and they are burnt out.

“While the chancellor mulls over scrapping the Non-Dom tax status, perhaps he could also consider making some more money available in next week’s budget to support our struggling health system. The Government cannot sit idly by, it must act to #ResuscitateEmergencyCare and give staff and patients the support they need.”

Rates of people needed to be hospitalised for flu and Covid-19 both fell, and ambulance handover times also improved, although 18,799 hours were still lost because of delays.

The release follows analysis from The Office for National Statistics charting the deterioration in A&E performance across the UK’s four nations over the past 10 years.

Graphs illustrating this data can be found here.

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