Hospitals are 'full to bursting', report finds
Published on 03 December 2012 12:00 PM
The Dr Foster Hospital Guide has found that patients' safety is being put at risk, with a dozen of England's NHS hospital trusts having higher than expected death rates.
The report found that hospitals were 'full to bursting' with occupancy rates regularly topping limits set in place to protect them.
The guide also found that 12 trusts had higher than expected deaths in 2 of the 4 mortality rate categories, which include the deaths of patients admitted for 'low risk conditions' and minor ailments and post-surgery deaths.
The report said 'higher-than-expected mortality' may be the result of 'poor-quality care'.
It also suggests that higher death rates during weekends could be linked to the shortage in the number of senior doctors working out of hours.
Occupancy limits to protect patients have been exceeded
Meanwhile, the report, part of which has been seen by the Press Association, showed although occupancy limits of 85% had been set to protect patients, midweek rates at many hospitals were running at 88% for 2011-2012 and averaging 90% for all but one month of the year, not counting quieter periods such as Christmas.
The Guardian, which has seen the whole report, has reported that the guide shows occupancy rates were above 85% for 230 days of last year and more than 90% on 19 days.
The report has been met with concern by Dr Andrew Goddard, director of the medical workforce unit at the Royal College of Physicians, which represents hospital doctors.
He said hospitals always seemed 'to be full'. He added: 'If you ask any doctor in this country they would say that the system is straining to burst; particularly in winter, but now it's increasingly happening in the rest of the year.'
Concern over quality of care
The report said that with the demand for hospital care going up but revenues falling there was concern that trusts may concentrate on care costs instead of the quality of their care, leading to fears that there 'could be another Mid Staffs'.
The report said hospital management teams must work to make sure that the quality of the care they offered was not sacrificed by focusing too much, or exclusively, on costs.
Age UK's Charity Director General Michelle Mitchell said: 'The 2012 Dr Foster Guide sheds an uncompromisingly spotlight on many older patients' experiences of hospital care.
'This study shows that despite this age group having some of the greatest need for NHS services, the chances of receiving high quality care are all too often stacked against older people.
'Most worrying is the finding that the older they get, the less likely older patients are to receive appropriate treatment and intervention.
Call on the NHS to guarantee high quality care
Age UK is calling on the NHS to root out poor care and guarantee that all treatment and care is of the highest quality and based on sound clinical judgement and not assumptions about age.
'Furthermore, evidence from the guide shows that nearly a third (29%) of hospital patients need not have been admitted had there been better primary and community health care provision,' Ms Mitchell added.
'Around two thirds of hospital patients are older people. It is vital to reform and better integrate health and social care so that it meets the needs of all patients regardless of age and guarantees high quality health care for each and every person.'
Copyright Press Association 2012