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NHS patients being treated in ‘hospital corridors, car parks and cupboards’

NHS patients are being treated and dying in hospital corridors, nurses have warned as they declared a “national emergency” in the health service.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) says patients are regularly treated on chairs in corridors for extended periods of time, and are being left without access to oxygen and enduring intimate examinations in inappropriate crowded areas.

The union is calling for mandatory reporting of patients cared for in corridors to show the extent of hospital overcrowding.

Acting general secretary Professor Nicola Ranger will say that the situation is a “tragedy” for the nursing profession at the start of the union’s annual conference in Newport, South Wales, on Monday.

She will say: “Our once world-leading services are treating patients in car parks and store cupboards.

“The elderly are languishing on chairs for hours on end and patients are dying in corridors. The horror of this situation cannot be understated. It is a national emergency for patient safety and today we are raising the alarm.

“This is about honesty and accountability. Care being delivered in front of a fire exit isn’t care. Signing ‘Do not resuscitate’ orders in a corridor isn’t care.

“Receiving a cancer diagnosis in a public area isn’t care. It’s a nightmare for all involved. We need to call it out as nursing staff, and health leaders and ministers need to take responsibility.”

A survey of almost 11,000 frontline nursing staff across the UK showed how widespread the practice has become, the union says.

When asked about their most recent shift, almost two in five respondents reported delivering care in an inappropriate area, such as a corridor.

Almost seven in 10 said the care they delivered in public compromised patient privacy and dignity.

One nurse, working in a hospital in England, said: “Patients are soiled for long periods of time because there is nowhere to change them. I’ve witnessed DNACPR (do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation) decisions being signed in the corridor.

“I’ve had to move a deceased patient into a corridor in order to generate resus (resuscitation) capacity before. It’s horrific.”

Nursing staff revealed that corridor care has become the norm in almost every corner of a typical hospital setting.

Staff describe patients receiving cancer diagnoses and intimate exams in public areas.

One nurse said: “You wouldn’t treat a dog this way.”

Another was instructed to “let a patient wander” because there was not enough room on the ward, while another recounted a patient with dementia being in a corridor for hours without oxygen.

The new report says corridor care is “a symptom of a system in crisis”, with patient demand in all settings, from primary to community and social care, outstripping workforce supply.

The result is patients left unable to access care near their homes and instead being forced to turn to hospitals.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive at NHS Providers, said: “These findings reflect the severe pressures facing the NHS, including high demand, lack of bed capacity and delayed hospital discharge.

“No trust leader wants to treat patients in corridors, store cupboards or other non-clinical areas as it compromises quality of care, patient privacy and dignity.

“The deeply concerning experiences shared by frontline nurses highlight the urgent need for more strategic investment and planning.

“It’s vital the next government properly address the root causes of hospital overcrowding.”

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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