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One in 10 emergency patients wait longer than four hours for hospital bed

Last week we heard worrying news about waiting times for ambulances and how most ambulance trusts are failing to reach seriously ill patients in good time. There are many problems with the ambulance service that have led to the crisis it is currently facing. The issues include poor management of staff to ensure adequate cover is provided.

One of the claims by ambulance services is that the delays vehicles face at hospitals when handing over patients is impacting their performance. It has long been known that hospitals have a bed shortage; however just how this is affecting the most critically unwell patients has been laid bare this morning.

According to an investigation by the BBC more than one in 10 patients face a long wait of over four hours for a bed after being brought in as an emergency. It is important to stress that for the vast majority of critically ill patients this will not be the case but the figures represent an almost five-fold increase since 2010/11. Hospital managers have said the delays are very worrying for patients and as a specialist medical negligence solicitor I share those concerns. Any patient who is harmed because they could not get access to a bed in good time is one too many and has the potential to devastate not just one life, but whole families.

Hospitals blame increasing demand and there is also the issue of ‘bed blocking’ by vulnerable patients who are well enough to be discharged but do not have support and help available to them at home. This can include elderly patients who may be more vulnerable to further injury if not discharged safely and may end up back in hospital.

This is not only very distressing for them but also has a knock-on effect on bed availability. Hospitals are also not good places for elderly patients with complex needs such as dementia. Overstretched staff do not always provide the basic care they need and as such further injuries can be caused while they are in hospital. JMW is handling numerous cases for families who have been affected by injuries caused to elderly while they were receiving hospital treatment.

But the crisis in social care, and how this is closely linked to the crisis in our hospitals, does not seem to register with government. Both are deepening. If a good system was in place pressure would immediately be relieved and patient care and safety would improve. This must be the goal for all and I hope the government takes note of these latest concerning statistics.

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