Patients waited nearly 50 hours for bed in the accident and emergency (A&E) department, including children with serious mental health problems, amid warnings that the winter crisis in the NHS was under way.
Independent have seen information showing that some patients at Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire have been waiting a long time for bed in recent days, with some waiting more than 40 hours before getting to bed.
Last week, a patient spent at least 47 hours in the ER, and staff warned that long waits were common.
This situation is replicating across the UK with several hospitals reporting incidents and records waiting for patients to see a doctor. Some people had waited 13 hours in the back of the ambulance before even entering the emergency room.
At Ipswich Hospital in Suffolk, a young man under the age of 16 with serious mental health problems waited nearly 48 hours in the emergency department last week. The service confirmed that this was due to a lack of dedicated mental health beds available for children, a problem reported across the NHS.
Across the UK, the NHS is facing severe bed availability pressures, months before peak winter stress is generally observed. As of Friday, 91% of hospital beds were occupied in the UK; more than 85% is considered an unsafe level.
Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said A&E was already in crisis and they were seeing a “dangerous overcrowding” of patients.
“Winter presented a huge challenge to healthcare,” he said, adding: “Staff are increasingly concerned about the ability of the NHS to cope. Governments must recognize the possibility of a crisis and support healthcare and medical care as they face the challenges that lie ahead.”
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In Lancashire, the situation is so bad that patients regularly crowd the emergency room and have to wait a long time to be examined.
Information viewed by Independent showed that a dozen people spent more than 24 hours in the emergency department last week, with one patient staying 47 hours in that location. There were five patients in a shift with a wait of more than 40 hours.
One worker stated: “Almost every day there are more than 40 hours waiting for bed. This is dangerous. We are unable to provide satisfactory care to our patients and our records are at risk.
“We had an unsafe workload for several years and now we are on the verge of collapse.”
A spokesperson for the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust noted: “Reducing long waiting times in our extremely busy emergency department is a priority for the entire service and for our wider health and care system, with a number of plans being developed for the community.
“Patient safety and staff well-being remains our top priority, we have a patient safety checklist to ensure we continue to do the right thing, no matter how stressed we are, and a very robust system on all fronts. their concerns and we strongly encourage them to do so.”
The hospital said more than 40 additional community beds were being released to help more patients get discharged. More beds have also been freed up at the clinic, but it is struggling with high staff levels and demand, in sync with other units across the country.
If patients wait long in the unit, they are checked regularly, the clinic added, but saw attendance growth of 6% more than in the same period in 2019.