One in Five Hospitals Uses Corridors for Emergencies

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES CHAPMAN

ONE in five hospitals admits emergency patients to corridors or side rooms rather than wards, a Whitehall inquiry has revealed.

Yet operating theatres are used for an average of only 24 hours a week, according to the Audit Commission.

Some are used for as little as eight hours a week, says the commission's survey. It shows how huge numbers of patients suffer second-rate care and are denied basic dignity by the Health Service.

The auditors found bungled and inefficient bureaucracy, with thousands of operations being cancelled simply because the right staff were not available.

Millions of pounds are also wasted every year because operating theatres and staff are left idle.

The watchdog, which publishes a series of reports today on acute hospital performance, has based its findings on official Government data and its own surveys last year.

It found that 81 per cent of emergency patients who need a bed are admitted within four hours of arriving at hospital.

But it added: 'One in five trusts keeps some emergency patients waiting temporarily on trolleys or in areas that do not have proper ward facilities even after they have technically been admitted.' The time patients spend in these 'holding areas' is rarely recorded. A quarter of all hospital trusts are using theatres for just two-thirds of the time planned.

Typically, trusts cancelled 12 per cent of outpatient operations and 6 per cent of planned admissions - often because consultants or operating theatres were not available. …