Thursday 13 September 2012
Patients’ lives at risk in NHS hospital wards 'on brink of collapse'
Some hospitals narrowly avoid “catastrophe” every weekend, research by the Royal College of Physicians has found, because doctors’ shifts are limited by the European Working Time Directive and they do not want to work anti-social hours.
Some are “struggling to cope” with the volume of older patients. Many are discharged in the middle of the night or shunted around “like parcels” to free beds for new arrivals.
If the problem is not tackled there will be more tragedies like the Mid Staffs scandal, in which up to 1,200 mainly elderly patients died from substandard care. A radical reorganisation of the NHS is needed, according to the college. It may include shutting the worst-performing hospitals to expand care at better ones, with more staff coverage at nights and weekends.
Sir Richard Thompson, president of the college, said: “One doctor told me that his trust does not function well at night or at the weekend and he is 'relieved’ that nothing catastrophic has happened when he arrives at work on Monday morning. This is no way to run a health service.”
Suzie Hughes, chairman of its patient and carer network, said that during a recent hospital stay she underwent five ward changes “all of which took place after midnight”.