A&E doctors today warn worsening delays for patients needing further treatment are causing “serious harm”.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine say “exit block” has increased over the winter as A&E units have struggled to deal with growing numbers of sick patients who need beds.
In a new report, it said action must be taken to tackle the problem which were causing hundreds of deaths a year.
It said: “We know that exit block causes serious harm and results in potentially avoidable patient deaths.”
Its president Cliff Mann, said: “Exit block remains a serious problem and is continuing to impact severely on patient safety.
“We know that where exit block occurs, mortality rates increase, operations are delayed, and overworked staff in A&E departments experience stress and burnout. We’re calling on hospital chiefs across the country to implement our recommendations for tackling this pernicious problem.”
British Medical Association chairman Mark Porter said: “Exit block is real and, as this report highlights, is letting down patients who depend on emergency departments. This is because exit block, coupled with a shortage of hospitals beds, can leave patients waiting for hours on trolleys or admitted to an inappropriate ward for their needs, affecting the quality of care they receive.
“Problems at the hospital front door are often linked to delays at the back door. Delays in discharging patients, often due to a lack of available care in the community, have a knock on effect on patient flow across a hospital - just one example of pressure in one part of the system spilling over into other parts.”