Extreme pressures facing NHS accident and emergency departments have been thrown into stark relief by the revelation that two patients died after lengthy waits on trolleys in corridors, and a third was found hanged on a ward at the same hospital.
It has been claimed that one woman died of a heart attack after waiting for 35 hours on a trolley at Worcestershire Royal hospital and another man suffered an aneurysm while on a trolley, and could not be saved. It is also alleged that a patient was found hanged on a ward. Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS trustconfirmed the hospital was under pressure.
The cases emerged following the publication of an analysis that showed the NHS was on the brink of a winter crisis. A larger than expected increase in patient numbers caused a third of hospital trusts in England to warn they needed urgent action to cope.
The BBC commissioned the Nuffield Trust health thinktank to look at four weeks of hospital data in the run-up to Christmas and found that 50 of the 152 English trusts were at the highest or second-highest levels of pressure.
During the period, seven trusts had to declare the highest level of emergency 15 times, meaning they were unable to give patients comprehensive care.
Official NHS figures published on Friday also showed that for the period from 28 December to 2 January, two trusts declared the highest level of emergency on one day each and 17 trusts declared the second-highest level – indicating that they were experiencing major pressures and “urgent action” was needed – on at least one occasion.