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Nurses warn over ‘corridor care’ trend

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on Sunday said it is calling on NHS organisations to halt the closure of hospital beds “until they can clearly demonstrate that alternative, tried and tested patient services in the community are available”.

These comments came as a new survey commissioned by the RCN showed that patients are being placed on hospital trolleys for many hours and treated in corridors not appropriate for care.

In the ICM Research survey, more than half of emergency department nurses reported that patients received daily care on corridors or areas not designated for patient care. Respondents indicated that keeping the patients in those areas was compromising patient safety.

RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said: “This survey paints a worrying picture of what is happening in our hospitals. Two years ago we warned that the need to make £20bn in efficiency savings in England alone would risk sending the NHS back to the days of treating patients in corridors or areas not designed for care. Sadly, it looks like those days have now returned.

“This sort of situation is not only unacceptable from a patient experience and safety point of view, but causes great distress to families, carers and nursing staff.”

The RCN is calling on NHS organisations to develop a much greater understanding of pressure points in the system, improve management of changes in demand and ensure safe staffing levels across all sectors.

Dr Carter added: “Treating patients on corridors or areas not designed for care is a high risk strategy, which can have a serious impact on patient care.”

The survey also highlights the huge stress frontline workers are currently under, with 86% of respondents saying the current level of pressure was either not very manageable or not manageable at all.


The ICMResearch survey of more than 1,200 nurses and health care assistants working in acute settings found that:

  • More than a fifth of nurses said that patients receiving care in corridors or areas not designated for patient care happened at least once a day, with 4% saying it happened hourly;
  • Nearly two in five nurses working in emergency departments see, on a daily basis, patients kept in ambulances orheld in a queue outside a department because of a lack of trolleys and beds. A total of 16% said this happens hourly;
  • Almost half of nurses said they have encountered patients being cared for or being asked to await care on trolleys for long periods in the last six months;
  • More than 40% of respondents said theyhad witnessed patients moved to wards not suited to the patient’s condition on a daily basis, and;
  • A third of nurses witness patients being moved every day for non-clinical reasons.

In November 2011, the RCN identified that 56,000 NHS posts across the UK have been lost, or are set to go, with many posts remaining unfilled across all parts of the health service.