Britain’s hospitals have ‘little fuel in the tank’ to cope with coronavirus, warn experts as research shows most frail patients are routinely stranded on trolleys in corridors for more than four hours amid a crippling shortage of NHS beds
- One in four people admitted this winter have waited four or more hours for a bed
- And one in seven patients stuck in ambulances outside A&E for 30+ minutes
- Experts say it’s proof health service would buckle under coronavirus outbreak
The NHS has ‘little fuel in the tank’ to cope with a coronavirus outbreak because of a crippling shortage of beds, health experts have warned.
Research shows the country’s most frail patients are routinely stranded on trolleys in corridors for more than four hours because of the problem.
Almost one in four people admitted onto wards in England in December and January had to wait more than four hours before being given a bed.
The problem has created a backlog outside hospitals which means one in seven patients are also left stranded in the back of ambulances for more than half an hour.
There have only been 13 cases in the UK, all of whom are being treated in specialist wards across the country.
But health bosses are on red alert for a surge in infections now that 12 European nations have racked up 450 cases and 14 deaths between them.
Helen Buckingham, director of strategy and operations at the Nuffield Trust think thank, told the BBC the swine flu pandemic in 2009 showed the NHS was good at dealing with new illnesses.
But she said it would far more difficult now because the health service has ‘very little in the tank’ when it comes to staff numbers and hospital beds.
199,000 patients – one in four – had four-hour delays on trolleys in corridors after being seen in A&E before a bed was made available to them. That is double the delays seen four years ago
Jill Woolley, 88, (pictured with daughter Samantha Tuck, 54) was left unattended on a trolley in A&E for six hours last year
Research conducted by the BBC, based on NHS England data, today found that this winter has been one of the worst winters for A&E departments on record.
It showed 199,000 patients – one in four – had four-hour delays on trolleys in corridors after being seen in A&E before a bed was made available to them. That is double the delays seen four years ago.
A separate 130,000 patients – one in seven – taken to hospital by ambulances were left stranded for at least half an hour before they could be let in over the two-month period.
The Royal College of Nursing blasted the situation, describing it as ‘unacceptable’, ‘undignified’ and unsafe of the patients it affects.
A spokesperson claims many hospitals were now deploying nurses to work specifically in corridors and provide oxygen and antibiotic drips, because they are so overcrowded.
RCN emergency care association chairman David Smith told the BBC: ‘It is not what we want for our patients – it is not dignified and obviously safety is a concern.
More than 81,000 cases of the COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – have been recorded across the world, with the death toll nearing 2,800. The UK is on red alert for more cases
France has reported four new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, including two people returning from Italy – bringing the total number to 17
‘We do our best to make sure they are comfortable and react if they deteriorate. But it is really upsetting for nurses to have to see patients like this.’
It comes as Europe remains on alert for coronavirus, with Greece today becoming the latest country to confirm a case of the deadly infection sweeping the world.
France also announced a second patient had died amid growing fears the escalating crisis in Italy will continue to spread across the continent.
Fifty more cases – including six children – of COVID-19 have now been confirmed in Italy, taking the toll past 370. Twelve patients have died.
Almost a dozen towns have been quarantined in the northern part of the country in a desperate attempt to contain the worsening coronavirus crisis.
Cases from Italy have now been confirmed in Austria, Croatia, Germany, Switzerland, France, Greece and Spain, as well as Algeria and Brazil.
It comes after thousands of British families jetted to Italy during the half-term break from schools last week and Easter holidays are just five weeks away.
More than 81,000 cases of the COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – have been recorded across the world, with the death toll nearing 2,800.
Family fury after former NHS medical secretary, 88, suffering from dementia was left for SIX HOURS on a trolley in A&E
The 88-year-old was forced to wait for six hours in A&E on a trolley, her family claims
The family of a former NHS worker who now suffers from dementia was left furious after she was left unattended on a trolley in A&E for six hours.
Jill Woolley, 88, worked as a medical secretary before she retired and was diagnosed with dementia in June.
Her relatives have been forced to watch her health decline ever since, but her daughter was particularly worried when she reacted badly to anxiety medication she was taking on Monday.
Samantha Tuck, 54, of Nuthall, Nottinghamshire, called her GP desperate for advice after her mother starting ‘falling in and out of consciousness’ that afternoon.
The surgery urged to call an ambulance and she was rushed to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, where she was left waiting in an A&E corridor for hours, her family claims.
Doctors later found she had a mild urinary infection and she should not have been prescribed the medication.
Her daughter said: ‘They originally said they would get a GP to come and see her or phone her and none of that happened. They just said ‘it’s still on our system.’
‘We couldn’t get her to the surgery because she couldn’t walk. I feel hurt and upset and like she has been neglected.
‘She is lucky because she has me to defend her – what about all the other people out there that are just left alone?
‘There must be thousands out there suffering. Dementia is looked upon as you are just old. I am grieving for my mum and she is alive.’
Her family claim she should not have gone to hospital in the first place.
Mrs Tuck continued: ‘All we wanted was for a doctor or nurse to check her vitals over but we had to call paramedics and then she had to go through the trauma of lying on a trolley in the A&E department for six hours.
‘Just because of the tablets her doctor prescribed her. A GP or nurse could have dealt with her.
‘It was a waste of the paramedics’ resources because they were here for over an hour.
‘She was just a name on the screen and no one was doing anything about it. The elderly are treated so poorly.’
When her daughter rang her doctors’ surgery, Billborough Medical Centre, at 9.30am, she was offered a home visit or call with the doctor.
But when her mother was losing consciousness at 2pm, they told her to go to hospital.
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