There’s been a sharp increase in ‘trolley waits’ in A&E departments – and experts warn it will get worse.

Data from the BBC show almost 475,000 patients waited for more than four hours for a hospital bed between October 2015 and September 2016. This is nearly five times the amount of people waiting for a bed compared to figures from 2010/11.

One in nine emergency patients now expect to face lengthy delays before being admitted to a ward. The waits are known as trolley waits, however some patients wait in side rooms, seats in the A&E department and space cubicles.

The data also revealed three-quarters of hospitals in England are reporting bed shortages. Wards are not supposed to exceed 85% capacity, to give staff time to clean beds, keep infections down and be able to move patients quickly.

However, 130 out of 179 hospital Trusts reported higher rates for general use beds.

Siva Anandaciva, of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said: “These figures are deeply worrying. We are heading into winter in a more fragile state than I have seen in the past 10 years or so.

“Even the historically top-performing Trusts are being challenged, which shows that this is an issue affecting all parts of health.

“No one wants to see people waiting in corridors, side rooms and emergency bays when they should be admitted to a hospital bed.

“These patients are still under the care of doctors and nurses, of course, but it is not ideal for them and we know overcrowding leads to worse outcomes.”

Dr Chris Moulton, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told the BBC: “Patients who are delayed like this are still being monitored by staff. But we know that the overcrowding we are seeing is dangerous.

“It leads to worse outcomes for patients – higher infection rates, patients ending up on the wrong wards, and generally a negative experience.

“We simply don’t have enough beds. If you compare us to other European countries we are really short and the demands being placed on the health service means we are now struggling to cope.”

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